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THE BARRIER 

(LA BARRI£R£) 






BOOKS BY BENE BAZIN 

PuBUBBBD BT CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

The Barrier imI $1.00 

(Lmhrnmbn) 

•« This, My Sob" $1^ 

(LeiNoeltote) 

TheNna ••••••• $1.00 

CL'IwMe) 

The ComlnK Herveit • • • • • $1.26 
(Le BM qui JAr%) 

Redemption • • ^ • • • • • $1.25 
(De toute ion Ame) 






THE BARRIER 

(LA BARRlfeRE) 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1910 



BY 




REN^ BAZIN 




AOTHOA OP "the NUN," "BZDEMFTION, 


" "THE 


OOMZNO HAKVEST," " THIS, MY SON," 


ETC. 


TRANSLATED BY 




MARY D. FROST 





**. 






o 



THE BARRIER 

(LA BARRI&RE) 



€^ 



i 



i 



THE BARRIER 



On the smooth-shaven lawn of the Westgate-on- 
Sea Tennis Club where a tournament was in 
progress, the final match had just begun between 
a pair of teams, each consisting of four men and 
as many girls. Team was an appropriate name 
for these groups of amateurs of the racket and 
ball, whom society so carefully distinguishes 
from professionals but who resembled them 
closely at this moment, not only in the i^ill and 
rapidity of their play, but in their complete ab- 
sorption in the game and in the spirit of com- 
radeship which precluded the slightest hint of 
gallantry or coquetry between the men and 
girls. All played alike with an ardour befitting 
Ibe champi^Ds of a lon^practised art, with ke^ 
pride in a clever stroke on either side, and with 
an eager emulation far surpassing the mere sense 
of youthful enjoyment, and preventing all inter- 
change of idle words. At one end of the tennis- 
ground, in the shade of a high hedge, a throng of 
spectators were gathered, mostly women, and in- 
eluding the usual contiilgent of poor but high- 
bom British spmsters. 

1 






2 THE BARRIER 

Two or three of the acknowledged leaders of t 

county society presided over this assemblage and 
appeared to be holding a sort of semi-regal court, 
to which had flocked numbers of summer resi- 
dents from the villas along the shore, not from 
Westgate only, but from Deal, Berchingtbn, and 
other pleasant nooks of this county of Kent re- 
nowned for its bracing air and equable climate. 
All seemed to know each other, either as mem- 
bers of the tennis club or as invited guests, and 
to constitute, for the time being, an exclusive co- 
terie to which many of them were, evidently, 
proud to belong. 

An animated talk was going on among the 
players who had already taken part in the match, 
and who now clustered around one of the ladies 
whom they greeted with joyous exclamations of, 
^'Oh, Lady Breynolds, I'm sure Reginald will 
win!" 

Having thus paid their respects to her, all. 
turned their steps towards a temporary booth 
erected in the centre of the lawn, where tea was 
being served. 

The lady so addressed was seated in a low 
garden-chair; her figure, which still retained the 
slendemess of youth, was set off by a close-fitting 
costume of dark-blue serge, her chestnut hair 
was coiled about her head in heavy braids, after 
the fashion of an earlier day; and though ap- 
proaching her fiftieth year, she was still beauti- 
ful, with classic regularity of features, and a 
marked dir of distinction. 

Her face, which in repose was somewhat cold 



I 



i 
I 



THE BARRIER 



and reserved, with little play of expression, evinced 
a lifelong habit of self-control and a sense of her 
own dignity befitting so finished a type of the 
^ great lady. 

I Yet her greeting was not wanting in grace, 

I,' owing to a pretty fashion she had of inclining 

) her head to one side as she bestowed on each 

1- guest in turn a rapid, penetrating glance which 

seemed to say: ''Oh, yes. I recognise you. I 
I recall perfectly your name, your family, the very 

y words we exchanged when we met, a week, two 

[ months, a year ago. All these things concerning 

you have the honour of being imprinted on the 
memory of Cecilia, Lady Breynolds." 
I With the little circle surrounding her who may, 

for the moment, have fancied themselves ad- 
mitted to her intimacy, her tone was easy, even 
I playful, and her clear laugh revealed the candid 

simplicity of her 'nature. The talk among the 
\ ladies was confined to light comment on the scene 

before them. From time to time Lady Brey- 
nolds turned to watch her son, who was taking 
part in the final match, and as she did so her 
light blue eyes, scarcely veiled by their blond 
lashes, wore an eager look of maternal pride and 
admiration, and as the close of the game ap- 
proached her gaze never left that part of the 
field where Reginald was playing. He was, how- 
ever, far too absorbed in the match to return 
her glance. 

All conversation had now ceased, while the 
women bent eagerly forward beneath their sun- 
shades, and the men, seated cross-legged on the 



4 THE BARRIER 

grass at their feet, watched each turn of the game 
with set lips and contracted brows. 

In this breathless silence, broken only by the 
buzz and whir of a parsing automobile, the thud 
of the balls was distinctly audible. Suddenly 
there was a burst of chee^ and a dapping of 
hands, not too loud, however, to befit so select 
a company. 

Then followed shouts of, "Bravo, Reginald 1 
Well done, old fellow!" while the air rang with 
his name, and one connoisseur remarked to 
another: "His play reminds me of Alfred Lyttle- 
ton's; the same quickness and precision. What 
a pity he is ordered back to India so soon! He 
wodd certainly win the champion^p." 

As Reginald Breynolds made his last success- 
ful shot amid shouts of triumph, a brief smile 
crossed his serious face, and seemed to express 
a momentary sense of the joy of life, of delight in 
the spring sunsUne and the fresh sea-b^zes 
blowing across the hedge of laurels. He looked 
around for the girl who had shared his victory, 
not, indeed, as an equal, but as a friendly and 
zealous ally, and gaily waved his thanks to her. 
Then his face resumed its habitual gravity as, 
drawing on the coat which a comrade was hold- 
ing out to him, and tightening his belt, he crossed 
the field with a long, easy stride, overtopping by 
half a head the admiring group who followed 
him. 

On reaching his mother's side, he pressed the 
hand she held out to him in a close, tender grasp 
which spoke more eloquently than words, while 



i 



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THE BARRIER 5 

her glances conveyed the exact degree of senti- 
ment which she allowed herself to display in pul>- 
lie, permissible surely in the mother of so hand- 
some and popular a son. 

*'I am proud of you/' was all she said, "and 
delighted at your success." 

She rose slowly as she spoke, closing her tor^ 
toise-shell lorgnette and slipping it into her belt; 
then with a glance at her special intimates invi- I 
ting them to follow her, and including the rest of 
the circle in a sUght bow, she made her stately 
progress towards the tea-table. 

There the tennis-players had already gathered 
in knots of twos and threes, and the girls were 
passing tea, while the men, having laid aside their 
rackets, were growing conscious at last that they 
had pretty companions. 

Etiquette being postponed until dinner, they 
were still merely comrades in sport, and the men , " 
were free to stretch themselves out at full length ;^ 
on the grass, to talk or keep silence. They showed, *- /• 
in fact, little eagerness for conversation, but lis- ■Jij-"'/ 
tened idly to the chat of the girls in their bright* \*-: 
hued burets, confining themselves to monosylla--^ , ^ 
bles or an occasional jest in reply and leaving U, > 
colloquial efforts to those jweaker vessels who t \^ 
^spoiljOTOus sport md whpse real rnission^ in-life a. ' >* 
IS to amuse "the superior sex. They indulged in \ ' 
no compliments, but when a girl, prettier or more 
spirited than the rest, chanced to raise her arms 
to rearrange her disordered locks or lingered near 
one of them to ofifer a cup of tea or to discuss 
some act of prowess in the game, a gleam of pleas- 



/ * 



rt 



6 THE BARRIER 

ure might be seen lighting up the eyes of these 
young conquerors. 

*'I hope, Reginald," said his mother, "that 
you have congratulated Mile. Marie Limerel. 
She played so well," and as her son nodded a 
careless assent she added warmly : 

"Yes, excessively well; admirably." 

"As well as an English girl, lifa^dame?" in- 
quired a low, musical voice in which there lurked 
a shade of irony. Insignificant as were the words, 
something in the modulations of the voice revealed 
a harmonious nature. Reginald, who was deep 
in conversation with a friend, a heavy youth in a 
plaid cap, with the air of a groom, glanced from 
his mother to the girl who had just spoken, and 
replied: "Not better than an English girl, but 
quite differently, and extremely well, as you say, 
mother," and having uttered these words in a 
tone of constrained politeness, the young soldier 
resumed his talk with his friend, Thomas Winne, 
a young man who concealed brilliant scientific 
attainments beneath an unprepossessing exte^ 
rior. To him Reginald was relating reminis- 
cences of his garrison life in India, of which an 
occasional word caught the ear: "As I was say- 
ing, I had bought a half-breed collie from a na- 
tive, and found him hard to train." And as the 
crowd around the tea-table was constantly shift- 
ing he took no further part in the general conver- 
sation. 

Daylight lingers long on these late spring days 
in England, but the sun was now setting and its 
level rays shed a flood of golden light over the 



THE BARRIER 7 

waves along the shore, over the quivering tops 
of the hedgerows, and the fair heads of the girls 
around the tea-table, and as Marie Limerel rose 
to take her leave she, too, was enveloped in this 
flood of splendour. Lady Breynolds who, with- 
out being an artist, was keenly alive to beauty, 
exclaimed: ^'Look, Dorothy, at the brunette 
Marie transformed into a Venetian blonde! How 
wonderful!" 

"It may be wonderful, but it^s not at all be- 
coming," replied the young lady thus addressed, 
a slight creature of twenty with the eyes of a ga- 
zelle and a rose-orchid complexion, who had been 
playing a dozen games of tennis with the energy 
and endurance of an athlete, and was now redi- 
ning lazily in a wicker easy-chair. 

"You are very hard to please," rejoined Lady 
Breynolds. 

And, in fact, in this sunset light, the French 
girl's rich brown hair piled in wavy masses above 
her brow seemed to be crowned with red autumn 
foliage and strange-hued seaweeds. It was but 
a momentary effect as she stood with the dazzle 
of sunlight^ her eyes and a smile on her lips, 
holding out her hand to Lady Breynolds; then 
she drew back into the shadow of the hedge. 

Reginald turned as Mile. Limerel rose to take 
leave, and before offering his hand hastily raised 
his tennis cap, as if in deference to French custom. 
Others in the group called out good-byes to the 
departing girl, and such is the spell of a certain 
grace of bearing and movement that the talk 
ceased for a moment round the table as all turned 






8 THE BARRIER 

to watch her departure. The sunset glow had 
already faded, but the evening light fell full on 
her tall, lithe figure, outlining the curve of her 
slender throat, cream-white as the petals of a j 

magnolia, and the firmly rounded cheek, with its 
mantling colour, eloquent of pure race and high 
spirit, as, with the light, rhythmic step which be- 
tokens character and decision, she moved swiftly 
away. 

The company now began to disperse. Lady 
Bre5molds having been summoned by a groom, 
and at last Reginald and his friend were left in 
solitary possession of the field. The two young 
men were still deep in talk, or rather Reginald 
talked while Winne was an intent and motion- 
less listener, confining himself to an occasional 
question or a murmur of assent. His head was 
bent forward and his cheeks were flushed as if 
with the effort his sluggish imagination was ma- 
king to keep pace with his friend's narrative. He 
rarely raised his eyes to Reginald's face, but 
when he did so it was with a look of complete 
devotion and loyalty towards this friend, who 
sat recounting his Indian adventures with head 
thrown back and keen gaze fixed on the horizon. 

*^It was rough work, then?" queried Winne. 

^' Rough indeed! I was sent, the only white 
officer, in command of a detachment of the Six- 
teenth Rajput Regiment on a reconnaissance into 
the higher valleys of Assam. The region is quite 
unexplored, with ma^cent scenery, but te^ble 
from the torrential rains which almost wash away 
the mountains, and from the ferocity pf the 



\ 



THE BARRIER 9 

Mongol population who hate the English^ despise 
the Hindoos^ and are constantly fitting among 
themselves. It is a country of dense forests and 
jungles, with a tropical growth of giant ferns and 
creepers, camellias and laurels, forming an almost 
impnetrable tangle of tough, glittering, prickly 
foliage. We plunged into these thickets, and 
after three weeks of constant effort we were able 
to set up our camp and give the men a chance 
to rest. We encamped amid the ruins of an old 
fort in a hollow, bowl-shaped valley. One side 
of this natural fortress was formed by the mas- 
sive blocks of some very ancient building, doubt- 
less a temple; the other three sides we repaired 
and strengthened by stakes driven into the 
ground and huge tree trunks bound together 
with stout creepers. A narrow stream flowed 
through the valley, just below the camp. We 
had sent out scouts in all directions, but found 
no cause for alarm; they brought back reports of 
seeing only a few scattered huts, and a solitary 
native here and there who fled at their approach. 
I profited by this apparent tranquillity to ex- 
plore the country, leaving my small force of 
thirty men under command of a sergeant known 
as Mulvaney, after Kipling's hero." 

''Yes, I remember. Had Kipling ever visited 
that region?" 

''No, I was the first Englishman who had pene- 
trated so far. I set out with an escort of two ' 
men, hunting as we went. We crossed a high 
pass and descended into another valley, much 
wider than the first, evidently peopled and partly 



10 THE BARRIER 

cultivated. Here we were greeted by a Euro- 
pean, a missionary, who had been living for 
twenty years among this people, unknown to the 
outer world, or at least to Assam." 

'^ An Englishman?" 

"No, a Frenchman, and a Roman Catholic. 
He had succeeded in partly civilising a native 
population of several thousands, had built a 
church, laid out roads, and cleared the land for a 
wide space around the village. 

"He was a tall thin man, with a grizzled beard. 
I spent two days with him, not under his roof, 
however, for he lodged in the poorest hut in the 
village, while he quartered me with one of the 
wealthier natives until we entered the jungle.. 
What a hunt he gave me! You have heard of 
those battues in India where they drive wild 
beasts of all sorts into an enclosure, a regular 
Noah's ark! After the game had been driven in 
by a troop of beaters, shouting and waving flags, 
we were posted near the only outlet ; we had barely 
time to load our muskets and fire before the mad 
rush of infuriated wild beasts was upon us, a leap- 
ing, roaring mass of every coat and colour." 

"Did the missionary fire, too?" 

"He did, indeed, and never missed a shot. I 
saw stags and lynxes, hares, foxes, and a tiger, 
which your humble servant shot. I saw wild 
boars too, and in the midst of this mad rush I 
caught sight of two men creeping by close at our 
feet, and emerging, three paces oflf, in the jungle. 
If they had chosen — ^but I was under special pro- 
tection. It was royal sport, such as few hunters 






THE BARRIER 11 

of big game have known or are likely to know. 
But two days later " 

'^The sport was fiercer still, was it?" 

''It was, indeed. I got back to camp none 
too soon. The entire population had gathered 
in our rear and were about to attack us. We 
were hemmed in by an enemy far more danger- 
ous than the wild beasts we had slain in the jungle. 
For a fortnight we stood a siege in that block- 
house, defended only by trunks of trees and loose 
masses of rock. For assailants we had hunger, 
thirst, and the hot season in addition to the inces- 
sant attacks of a numerous and active foe, and I 
saw our end rapidly approaching. 

"Suddenly, one morning, a band of unexpected 
alhes flung themselves on the savages and made 
their way into our camp. They were led by the 
abb6, whom I recognised a long way off by his 
height and his movements. He brought us sup- 
plies, and I owe it to him that I am here at this 
moment. But when I attempted to express my 
gratitude, I was met by the most singular re- 
fusal I have ever encountered." 

''What did you offer him?" asked Winne. 

"Whatever he wanted. I began by proposing 
an indemnity." 

"Well, what did he say to that?" 

"He merely laughed. I then suggested draw- 
ing up a report to my chief and obtaining a 
pecuniary reward for him as well as an official 
Acknowledgment from the British government. 
Then he grew serious and said: 'No, my friend, 
no honours for me.' 



12 THE BARRIER 

"I next ofifered to call the attention of the 
French government to his noble action, upon 
which he laid his hand upon my arm and inter- 
rupted me in a harsh tone, but with tears in his eyes. 

"Imagine us both perched in a sort of niche in 
the wall, a haunt for bats hollowed out o^ the roof 
of a temple so ancient that its sculptures could no 
longer be distinguished from fissures in the stones. 
Our feet hung over the abyss as we sat there, gaz- 
ing down into the valley beneath, from which 
rose an odour of carnage mingled with blossoms. 

"We were the leaders, and as I listened to my 
soldiers singing at their supper in the woods fifty 
feet below us, I was tasting the first joy of our 
rescue. Finally silence set in, with only the blue 
vault of the night sky around us. 

"I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude 
towards our rescuer, a man so brave and so devoid 
of ambition; but at last I began to resent his 
refusal and to urge upon him the point of honour 
which did not permit me to regard the safety of 
my men and my own as so trifling a naatter. I 
grew angry and must have said something that 
wounded him, for when I ended he replied: 

"'It is well. You force me to make a cruel 
confession. I have deserved it, but I beg you 
to keep the secret of my name. For a score of 
years I have lived amongst this people; I hope to 
die in their service. But before coming out to 
India, for the space of several months in Europe, 
I was an unworthy priest. I sinned against the 
vows of my order — ^my whole life since then has 
been an expiation. . . . You understand now, 



THE BARRIER 13 

my friend, that I have no wish to lessen the rigour 
of this expiation. Suffer me to take my leave of 
you. You can never remember me now without 
remembering my fall, and you have forced me 
to feel shame rather than pride in the service I 
have been able to render you. But it is better 
so. Good-bye.' The next day he left us, and I 
never saw him again; but I own to you, my dear 
fellow, that I was deeply moved by this meeting.'' 

''What does it prove?" exclaimed Winne. 
"That there are Roman Catholic priests who do 
not keep their vows!" 

"It proves rather the opposite," Reginald an- 
swered, "since such expiations, purely voluntary, 
follow on sin — But no, you cannot understand 
it. You would have to look into those deep eyes 
of his, hollowed out by tears, like stones on the 
beach washed for ever by the tide. I was brought 
face to face with the mystery of purification. I 
felt myself infinitely beneath him. I saw that 
there was something more heroic and more mov- 
ing than innocence — ^repentance. I would will- 
ingly have knelt and asked his blessing." 

"The blessing of a sacrilegious priest!" 

"What of him who has never repented?" 

The square-cut jaw of Reginald's friend moved 
in a short, mirthless laugh, and his eyes flashed 
beneath his heavy brows as he said: 

"You are joking, no doubt." 

"No, far from it." 

"I should never have fancied you such a poet, 
Reginald. And what did you do? Did you kneel 
to this priest? " 



14 THE BARRIER 

''No, but we said a prayer together/' 

"What was this prayer? I am curious to 
know/' » 

''I do not remember. All this was fifteen 
months ago, and since then " 

''Well, since then?" 

"My views have altered greatly." 

Thomas Winne was silent for a long time. He 
was grieved and shocked, but the friendship be- 
tween the two young men was being strengthened 
by their very disagreement. Winne sought for a 
formula in which to sum up his thoughts and 
had difficulty in finding one. At last he held 
out his hand and said: "These are the results 
of travel and change of environment. You will 
become your old self again here. All this will 
pass. How long is it before you go back? " 

"Five months at least. I may even get a 
longer leave." 

Winne reflected that five months at home 
might, indeed, accomplish much. He need not 
force himself into the secret depths of another's 
will and conscience. He merely added : 

"For my part, I hate all this priestly business!" 

Then the friends walked slowly back towards 
Westgate and parted on entering the town, with 
the heartiest grasp of the hand they had ex- 
changed for years. 

Night was now coming on, but the clouds over 
the sea still held a lingering glow. It may have 
been the waves, stirred by a fresh breeze, which 
flung back so many shimmering rays upon the 
night sky. Meanwhile Marie Limerel had reached 



THE BARRIER 15 

home, or, rather, the modest story-and-a-half 
villa on Westgate Bay Avenue> with its tiny- 
garden in front and strip of lawn in the rear, 
which her mother had rented for the season. She 
ran quickly up the stairs to their little sitting- 
room, with its wide bay-windows opening on the 
esplanade, where she found her mother carefully 
taking down from the closet her dainty white 
evening gown. The look of motherly solicitude 
which often cast an anxious shade over Mme. 
LimerePs brow lighted up on Marie's entrance. 

'' Good-evening, mamma," she cried, embra- 
cing her. '^Did you see little sister at the con- 
vent?" 

"Yes, dear, and found her well." 

^'Pauvre cherie! I have deserted her to-day! 
Ah! I see that you have a letter from Paris," 
she added hastily, as she caught sight of an enve- 
lope Ijdng on the table. 

"Yes, Marie, a letter from your uncle, and a 
somewhat strange letter it is." 

"Ah! let us see it," and as Marie spoke she 
and her mother seated themselves, with the same 
supple grace of movement, side by side on a 
couch in the window where, in the half light from 
a lamp behind them, they appeared like a pair of 
sisters. 

They did not begin to read at once. 

"F61icien has passed his examination and taken 
high rank," remarked Mme. Limerel. 

"How delighted I am ! He deserves it. He has 
worked so hard to fit himself for a diplomatic 
career. And how my uncle has worked to help 



^ 



*\ 



• 



16 THE BARRIER 

him on! How many dinners he has given to his 
political opponents!" 

^'Yes, and if it had been the giving of dinners 
only! If he had not sacrificed his convictions to 
F61icien's success!" 

"What of it, mamma? He has tried to turn 
himself into another man to serve his son, and it 
appears that the operation has proved a success. 
I am not in raptures over the news, but I am well 
content. Do you not believe me?" 

Mme. Limerel let the hand that held the let- 
ter drop into her lap and gazed at her daughter 
for a moment — ^the brief space a mother requires 
to read the face of her child — ^then having found 
what she sought there and dispelled a passing 
doubt, she smiled. 

The only thing this mother had retained from 
a happy past was her tender way of smiling at her 
children. She might still have been pretty had 
she cared to be so, but she wished to appear young 
only in the eyes of Marie and Edith. At this 
moment, however, the likeness was striking be- 
tween mother and daughter. Both had the same 
smooth forehead, shaded by masses of dark brown 
hair, breaking into little ripples like tendrils of 
gold; both had the same beautiful brows with 
their perfect arch, the same white skin hardly 
tinged by the colour that glowed rich and warm 
beneath. They had the same clever, sensitive 
lips, Florentine in their long curves, Parisian in 
the upward tilt at the comers, the same proud 
glance never devoid of thought, all these signs 
indicating, under the mere physical resemblance, 



THE BARRIER 17 

equal gifts of mind and heart. The girl, however, 
was taller and far more robust than her mother, 
though as they sat nestling close to one another 
the difference was not apparent. 

''Well,'' said Mme. Limerel at last, "why don't 
you read your uncle's letter? " 

There was no change of expression in the girl's 
face, no movement stirred her outward tran- 
quillity, but something of her inward radiance 
was withdrawn, like the tide ebbing back from 
the sands, as she answered : 

"I can easily imagine all he says." 

''You expected this letter then?" 

"Not actually, but it does not surprise me." 

"It does, in fact, concern you," said Mme. 
Limerel, whereupon Marie began reading rapidly. 

M. Victor Limerel first entered into full par- 
ticulars regarding hjis own health, that of his 
wife, and of their son F61icien, before proceeding 
to announce that the latter had passed his dip- 
lomatic examination ^with honour. Marie's look 
became more absorbed as she turned the page and 
read: "F^licien is now a man; he ha^ a profes- 
sion and all the qualities that insure success. We 
are therefore disposed, his mother and I, to urge 
him to marry. He has always declared that he 
would take this step as soon as he had entered on 
his profession. The moment has therefore ar- 
rived and the question is: Whom shall he marry? 
You can readily believe that I have given the 
subject deep consideration, and that our difficulty 
is simply one of choice. 

"I desire, in fact I am determined, that he shall 



18 THE BARRIER 

make an advantageous marriage, and you know 
me too well to think I would hesitate to define 
what I mean by this. I mean a wealthy marriage ; 
one which will include those social and family con- 
ditions which we are entitled to look for, but, 
above all — ^a fortune. I have laboured too hard 
all my life not to desire a reward at last in the 
happiness of my son. My wife, I will not deny, 
would be less exacting, being, as you know, a per- 
son of sentiment. 

''Why are you not in Paris, my dear Madeleine? 
I should be so glad to talk over this important 
matter with you, and appeal to your sound judg- 
ment. We do not always agree on minor questions 
but I feel confident that you would support me 
in this. You have too much experience of life, 
too much affection for F^licien, for me to doubt 
that your counsel in this juncture would be wise 
and disinterested. You would also have great 
influence with my wife, and probably with my 
son as well. 

''When are you coming home? I hope you 
are not proposing to lipger for ever on the shores 
of the English Channel. Reassure me on this 
point, and give our best remembrances to our 
nieces, who are, doubtless, as rosy and blooming 
the one as the other. Six weeks at Westgate! 
Shall we recognise Marie after such an absence?" 

^'Well, what do you think, dear?'' 

"That my uncle is an excellent man of business, 
and as such feels so superior that he regards 
other people as simpletons. That is so plain that 
it stares one in the face." 



% 



THE BARRIER 19 

'^Tell me your whole thought, Marie, so that I 
may see whether we have drawn the same con- 
clusion." 

" I am sure of it. They are attempting to marry 
F61icien. But my cousin shows no enthusiasm 
for the veiy rich bride they have provided for 
him. He is making objections and my uncle 
counts on us to overcome them." 

''He is in love elsewhere?" 

''It is more than possible." 

Mme. Limerel laid her hand on Marie's arm, 
their eyes met and their souls in them. 

"Marie, has F61icien ever told you that he 
loves you? " 

"Never plainly. Between cousins one never 
knows; at least for a long time. They are a genus 
apart, half-way between brothers and lovers. 
But he has always treated me with affection and 
he was very sad when we parted. That is why I 
think he loves me. His father seems to think so, 
too." 

"Well, dear child, if F61icien were to tell you 
he loved you, would you marry him?" 

The girl rose: she was charming in her blend- 
ing of youthful gravity and emotion, of feelings 
half acknowledged and half resisted. The scene 
suggested by her mother's question rose before 
her. She heard the words of tenderness, she 
saw the eager, troubled face of the man who was 
uttering them. But a sovereign power wrestled 
with this vision; a certain influence — strong, sub- 
tle, noble — spoke other words and penetrated 
deeper into this young soul. 



20 THE BARRIER 

'"There would be a very serious question to 
settle between us first/' she replied. Her mother 
gave a sign of assent. She must have felt com- 
plete confidence in the rectitude and strength of 
character of this daughter of twenty. She did not 
seek to question Marie further, but merely said: 
"As to family ties, do we really constitute one 
family? We visit each other frequently, and 
dine together at intervals, but what S3anpathy is 
there between us as regards essentials? We man- 
age to avoid open quarrels, but is there not a con- 
stant sense of inward irritation on both sides? 
Are there not heated discussions when we meet, 
and mutual reproaches? The trouble is, that we 
are united merely by convention and regard for 
society. And I believe it is so in most families, 
and that friendship and congeniality of mind 
make the true kinship." 

At this moment the sound of the Japanese 
gong, violently struck by their little maid to 
summon them to dinner, broke off the conver- 
sation. 

This was the first time that Mme. Limerel and 
Marie had spent a summer in England during 
the three years that the younger daughter had 
been left at school there; and the reasons that 
had led them to permit themselves such an ex- 
travagance were characteristic of the logic and 
thrift of the old French bourgeoisie in the pur- 
suit of pleasure. Mme. Limerel had been left 
a widow at twenty-eight, by the sudden death 
of her husband, ,.a captain of artillery, who had 
been killed by the explosion of a powder-maga- 



THE BARRIER 21 

zine. In her bereavement she had immediately 
left the southern city where she was residing witik 
her husband, and returned with her two little 
daughters to Paris. There her fortune, though 
not large, had enabled her to live according to 
her tastes: to entertain her friends modestly, to 
spend freely for her charities, and to indulgj'for 
many years in one luxury which she had now 
resigned — ^a carriage of her own. This "equipage," 
as it was laughingly styled by M. Victor Limerel, 
himself an ardent motorist, had long traversed the 
streets of Paris like the relic of a former age, 
calling up to the eyes of those who saw it pass 
the vision of a portly, powdered dowager seated 
therein, very unlike its actual occupant. It was 
a coupl from a once fashionable maker, Imed with 
quilted garnet satin and drawn by a dapple-gray 
mare, maternal of eye, movement, and shape, 
which trotted solidly along the boulevard, pre- 
senting a majestic breadth of chest to the gaze 
of indifferent Paris. 

But within the year Mme. Limerel had decided 
to give up the "equipage," to sell the ancient 
mare, and discharge Joseph, the old coachman, 
and had announced her intentions to Marie in 
these words : 

"I shall take cabs in future, my dear child, and 
you and I will travel." 

Accordingly the new regime had been inaugu- 
rated by this trip to Westgate-on-Sea, and the 
hiring of a villa for the season. 

The little town of Westgate,. having no poor 
population of its own and frowning upon excur- 



i 

22 THE BARRIER 

sion parties, flourished as happily upon its peace 
and seclusion as other resorts upon their crowds 
and noise. There were few passers along the tree- 
shaded avenue as the two ladies started for their 
customary evening walk, but the bay-windows of 
the small villas were all brightly lighted, and 
the family parties within were plainly visible, 
enjoying their after-dinner coffee and evening 
papers. 

A sea-breeze was blowing and the air was cool, 
and sparkling with the tang of brine. Great 
veils of mist hung vertically over the sea as if 
suspended from the stars, wrapping earth and 
sea together in their diaphanous folds. Mme. 
Limerel and Marie follow^ the path that skirts 
the shore, winding up from the beach to Ledge 
Point, between the smooth lawns of the more 
luxurious villas. Both women loved this lofty 
outlook over the mouth of the Thames. At in- 
distinguishable distances in the mist, the gray 
floor of the bay was streaked with foam from the 
tracks of countless vessels, and twinkling clusters 
of lights here and there marked the fleets lying at 
anchor, men-of-war, fishing boats, or great freight- 
ers waiting for the tide to carry their cargoes to 
the docks of Chatham and London. 

Farther still the electric lights on Margate pier 
illuminated a narrow stretch of sea and revealed 
a fantastic palace, whose pillared portico and 
domes of fire seemed to be floating on the water. 

Mme. Limerel was in the habit of thinking 
aJoud when alone with Marie, the sympathy 
which united them leaving to each perfect free- 



i 

THE BARRIER 23 

dom of opinion, while their mutual understand- 
ing made sUence no barrier between them. 

''I am growing tired of this English comfort, 
Marie," she said; "these people care too much 
about their ease." 

"That may be, mamma, but we must remem- 
ber that we are seeing them in their holiday sea- 
son. We ought to see them at work before we 
judge them. Many of the men have earned in 
daring enterprises what they are spending in 
luxuiy. For instance: I went with Dorothy 
yesterday to call on Mrs. Milney, whose pretty 
villa with the white chimneys you can see through 
the trees yonder, and I discovered what was the 
origin of their wealth." 

"Business, of course." 

"Yes, but a business carried on in Honolulu. 
Their salon is hung with lovely water-colour 
sketches of the scenes amidst which their fortune 
was made. Old Samuel Milney, whom we see 
every afternoon setting out for the golf-links 
with his groom, is spending in sport the rem- 
nants of a physical vigour which has resisted 
thirty years of plantation Ufe in Oceanica. Two 
of his brothers are out there now, and his nephew 
is going soon to join them. Yes, they have a 
right to feast as they shot their own game and 
often at great hazard to themselves." 

"You love them, child, you might as well con- 
fess it." 

"I understand them, or at least I am begin- 
ning to do so, which is not quite the same thing, 
manmia." 



24 THE BARRIER 

"You certainly understand them far better than 
I do/' 

"That is because you do not play tennis, 
mamma; and you decline teas, while I go wher- 
ever I am invited, and am growing quite used to 
this social freedom." 

"And how do they really strike you, these 
English people?" 

"As very like ourselves, mamma." 

"No paradoxes, dear. Every book we read 
tells us the contrary. Like us, indeed!" 

"Not in their habits, of course, but in them- 
selves, the men especially. I assure you I have 
already encountered several Normans among 
them/which is, perhaps, not surprising, but aIsS 
more Gascons than you would think possible, a 
few dull Auvergnats, not so many Parisians, cer- 
tainly, but one or two. Indeed, manuna, an 
Englishman who has travelled is often one of 
the finest types of men." 

"Ah, yes, Marie, but how French you appear 
to me when I see you in the midst of them!" 

"I feel so, too " 

"But you do not feel as I do, I am sure. At 
this very moment I am pining for our Avenue 
d'Antin apartment, and the thought of hearing 
the Montrouge tram-car pass once more seems 
to me like a bright dream." 

"Your dream will be realised before long, dear- 
est, we are going back so soon. For my part, I 
shall miss all this a little. Look out yonder now I " 

They had reached the end of the ledge where 
the path turned to descend. Beyond them 



THE BARRIER 25 

stretched the curving Knes of Westgate and the 
adjoining beaches festooned along the western 
coast with their chalk cliffs palely outlined against 
the starlit sky. The incoming tide filled the night 
with its murmur, and swayed the grasses along 
the cliff's edge. 

Mme, Limerel raised her arm and pointed out 
the circle of costly villas fringing the shore. 

*'The most interesting thing in the world," she 
said, ^^is the human soul. How many souls have 
you discovered during the six weeks you have 
been plashing and talking with these idle English- 
men and women? " 

^'I have divined a few." 

''That is something. Who are they?" 

"There is little Dorothy for one. Her inner 
nature is as clear as a fountain." 

''Who besides?" 

"Reginald Breynolds." 

"What? That well-bred cow-boy I He was 
wonderful in the tournament to-day, you tell me. 
But you believe that he has a soul? You are 
sure of it?" 

"Yes; a troubled soul, mamma." 

"He has confided in you, then. Mademoiselle?" 

A light laugh answered her first, then the truth- 
ful lips resumed their serious curve. 

"He would have to be unhappy indeed to con- 
fide in a woman. No, We have exchanged nothing 
but tennis balls. But I have heard from Dorothy 
that he and his father do not agree, at least there 
have been heated discussions between them." 

"And do you know the cause?" 



26 THE BARRIER 

"Religion, mamma." 

''It is always so, Marie; the longer you live the 
more convinced you will be that the bitterest di&- 
1" sensions are not over money and material things, 
but involve souls and consciences. I often say 
to myself that there has never been a time so 
theological as ours, so stirred to its depths by 
opposing spiritual forces. Where is there a fam- 
ily, whether of believers or sceptics, that lives in 
perfect peace?" 

*' There is ours, dear, you and I and Edith." 

'Toor darling! She must be asleep at this 
hour." 

*'Not yet, seel The light in her window is still 
burning." 

They had now left the shore road behind them 
and were returning by a path that crossed the 
fields. In the distance before them rose the roofs 
and turrets of the convent '*Des Oiseaux," the 
home of France in exile. 

''That is another cause for regret at leaving 
Westgate," pursued Marie, "that we must leave 
Edith behind. The child grows more winning 
every day." 

"Does she not? And she is growing more at 
home here, too, and appreciates the sacrifice we 
are making in order to keep her in this pure air 
where she is gaining strength in body and mind — 
our little Edith, so tall and slim and fair." 

"While I am so tall and slim and brown." 

"She is like her father." 

' ' See ! Her lamp is out at last. Edith is asleep 
beneath her white curtains. Sister No6mie has 



THE BARRIER 27 

just glided by in her felt shoes like a soft shadow, 
and put out the light." 

The pale gleam from the second-story win- 
dows of the convent had indeed vanished. The 
thoughts of the mother and elder sister still hov- 
ered about the sleeping child as they pursued 
their quiet way homeward through the starlight, 
these two who loved each other with an almost 
equal love, since one was a mother and the other 
had not yet given her heart. 

The following day, in the drowsy stillness of an 
English Sunday afternoon, an automobile stopped 
before the door of the villa, and the two French 
ladies stepped into it, Mme. Limerel, in defer- 
ence to her late '^equipage," insisting that the 
chauflfeur should drive slowly. After crossing a 
scantily wooded, highly cultivated plateau whose 
distant slope dipped on either hand to the shores 
of the bay they descended into a grassy hollow — 
a sort oiF channel long ago abandoned by the sea, 
and now filled with rich pastures divided by wire 
fences; they next passed a chain of low hills, 
some densely wooded, others given over to the 
plough, across whose dry stubble the winds drove 
the dust in clouds, like spray off the waves. After 
crossing the last of these hills the limousine turned 
into a wide avenue shaded by lofty beeches, past 
a porter's lodge as damp and moss-covered as a 
forest cave, and rolling smoothly over the sanded 
driveway in the twilight of the boughs suddenly 
emerged before a stately dwelling, standing in 
an Open space encircled on all sides by dense 



28 THE BARRIER 

masses of gray-green foliage. The house was a 
rectangular building with many windows, the red 
of its brick softened and toned by age and the 
moisture of the climate, its square towers crowned 
with crenelated stone battlements, the whole 
effect mellowed by the misty blue distances of 
the park which formed its setting. 

This was Redhall, and the car having drawn 
up beneath its portico Mme. Limerel and her 
daughter alighted, being admitted through a long, 
glazed gallery resembling a vast conservatory in 
which family portraits and old china took the 
place of flowers. Richly emblazoned stained 
glass filled many of the long wmdows opening on 
the park, through which they caught glimpses of 
a party of golfers in the distance. From the 
drawing-room, on the other side, came the sound 
of a piano, strunmied by unskilful fingers; as the 
groom threw open the door this sound suddenly 
ceased, and Dorothy rose in confusion and flew 
to embrace her French friend, with cheeks far more 
flushed than they had been after her exertions in 
the tennis-field. 

"Oh, Marie! Oh, Mme. Limerel! I play so 
badly," she cried as she greeted them. "I am 
alone. Every one else is in the park. Lady 
Breynolds has walked to the lake with the Hunter- 
Brices, and Sir George is showing Fred Land his 
kennels." 

"How entertaining that must be for Mr. 
Land!" 

"Oh, well! does anything really entertain him, 
or bore him, either?" 



THE BARRIER 29 

''Perhaps his colleagues do the latter." 

"Yes, that is very possible. You can see 
Robert Hargreave and Donald Hagarty playing 
golf with the Hunter-Brice girls, and here am I. 
Shall we go to meet the walking party? " and so 
speaking she led the way through one of the long 
windows, past the north front of Redhall and 
along the high hedge which bordered the flower 
gardens. Then their three figures were half lost 
in the wide glades of the giant chestnut grove 
whose trees were contemporaneous with the 
castle and had been planted, originally, so far 
apart that their branches had spread for two 
centuries before meeting overhead. Last year's 
dry leaves, sifted by thi winter winds, lay piled 
in pale heaps upon the mossy turf beneath their 
feet. After a quarter of an hour's walk they 
overtook Lady Breynolds, who had brought her 
guests to see her rhododendrons. 

From the bank on which they stood she was 
pointing out the small oval lake from whose 
margin the dense foliage rose in terraces of un- 
broken verdure, excluding all other vegetation 
and enclosing the dull green water of the pool 
with its glittering leaves and intertwined roots, 
amid which the foxes found a covert. Not a bud 
showed its purple hues as yet, though in other 
seasons, by the end of May, these violet slopes 
reflected in the water and framed by the forest 
were like a vision of Eden. 

'^I am sure that India has no sight so marvel- 
lous as this," Mr. Hunter-Brice was saying. He 
was an athletic personage, reduced by a touch of 



r 



30 THE BARRIER 

gout to this moderate form of exercise, and drag- 
ging one leg slightly as he walked. "I am afraid, 
however, that our friend Reginald doesn't appre- 
ciate their beauty; he has been quite dumb all 
day." 

"Oh, he has his days," replied Lady Breynolds 
hastily; ''he is usually devoted to this comer of 
the park." 

But as she spoke her face betrayed some in- 
ward disquietude. Accustomed as she was to 
self-control, she had not quite succeeded in mas- 
tering her emotions, and while her voice was sub- 
missive to her will, her eyes expressed a secret 
pain. 

Happily at this moment Dorothy's voice, clear 
as the note of a skylark, caused Lady Breynolds 
to turn her head and, catching sight of Mme. 
Limerel and Marie, she recovered control of her 
nerves and greeted them with her usual gracious 
courtesy. 

"We shall have time to make a tour of the park 
before dinner," she said, "if Mme. Limerel does 
not mind so long a walk. I will show you the 
Highland cattle and my herd of antelopes." 

Dorothy passed her arm through Marie's and 
pointing out Reginald's figure pacing alone on the 
shore of the lake, in the midst of the rhododen- 
dron thicket, she said aloud : 

"I hope you may be luckier than I, Marie. I 
have not succeeded in making his lordship smile 
once this morning," and in a lower tone she 
added: "There is certainly something strange 
going on in this house. Reginald seems very 



THE BARRIER 31 

unhappy, and he does not consider me a suffi- 
ciently serious person to confide his woes to. 
Good-evening, Hamlet," she cried as he ap- 
proached them. "I am bringing you a beauti- 
ful stranger who is worthy of sharing the sorrows 
of the prince of Denmark." 

Reginald shook hands heartily with the two 
girls, and offered Dorothy a branch of rhododen- 
dron bearing the first half-opened bud of the sea- 
son, like a tiny pine-cone shot with flame colour. 
Mrs. Hunter-Brice, who was the mother of two 
unmarried girls, turned to watch this little scene 
from the comedy of youth, suspecting a romance 
beneath it, but Dorothy ran ahead to join the 
others. Reginald lingered behind with Marie.. 

''I am glad of a chance to talk with you," he 
said. Marie made no reply and they strolled 
slowly along the avenue, while Lady Breynolds 
and her companions were soon lost to sight. 
The girl looked back over the sheet of water be- 
hind them, dimpled with light breezes and reflect- 
ing the forest in its depths. Reginald, walking 
beside her, had not a glance for his companion; 
his eyes seemed to be pursuing some far-off mel- 
ancholy dream. 

Marie could not divine what trouble he was 
about to confide to her, but her innate gift of 
S3rmpathy inclined her to respond fully to this 
appeal, whatever it nught be. 

Finally Reginald, folding his arms with a ges- 
ture habitual with him when engaged in earnest 
talk or discussion, began: 

"Winne did not come to-day." 



32 THE BARRIER 

This clearly implied and Marie so understood 
it: If Thomas Winne had been here to-day he 
would have been the recipient of my confidence, 
but since he is not at hand, I turn to you. 

Without awaiting any further explanation she 
answered: "He is indeed your best friend/' 

"Yes," he acquiesced absently; then pursuing 
his own train of thought he resumed : 

"Something serious happened here this morn- 
ing." 

"What was it?" the giri asked. 

"I refused to attend church with my father 
and mother." 

Marie raised her eyes to her companion. As 
he spoke every feature of his manly face, so calm 
and regular in repose, seemed to contract and 
harden, while he kept his eyes fixed on the ground. 

"Excuse me, but I do not understand why 
that is such a serious matter. We feel obliged, 
we Catholics, to attend church every Sunday, but 
you are not under the same obligation." 

"No, but my father insisted and I refused." 

"And what followed?" 

"We have been at odds for some time already. 
He is arbitrary by nature, and he has the right to 
be so. I am not accusing him, you understand." 

He walked on a few steps in silence, then 
resumed: 

"This misunderstanding and lack of sjonpathy 
between us has become intensified of late. The 
moment is approaching when I must make up my 
mind to yield to him completely, or to break 
free." 



THE BARRIER 33 

"You fear that he will reopen the subject?" 

"Not in the same way. He never repeats 
himself, but I fear that this very evening, being 
Sunday, will bring matters to a crisis." 

"But what can I do to help you?" 

Reginald replied, with a shade of annoyance 
in his tone and with his face still turned away 
from hen 

"I am not given to asking advice, I assure you. 
I like to act for myself, on my own responsibUity. 
But the problem that confronts me now is new to 
me, and I feel that your advice might be of 
service." 

Marie rejected the idea with a slight wave of 
the hand as she said: 

"Why do you not ask counsel from your 
mother?" 

"She would not understand." 

"Or from some old friend — ^Miss Violet Hunter- 
Brice, for instance, or Dorothy, whom you have 
known from childhood." 

"No, I have chosen you because I am sure you 
have an enlightened conscience." 

He said this with a low laugh which did not 
relax the drawn expression of his face, although 
it slightly softened the harsh inflections which his 
voice had assumed. Marie smiled slightly, but 
the smile did not lingen "Well," she said, "you 
may tell me." 

But such was Reginald's reluctance at seeking 
advice, especially from a woman, that he con- 
tinued to walk on in silence until they reached 
a bench ben«ath the trees at a point where 



34 THE BARRIER 

four woodland paths met. Here he motioned 
Marie to be seated and took his place beside 
her. 

The woods were lonely and deserted at this 
hour, and wrapped in a soft mist — ^that mist 
which is never far distant in the English land- 
scape — but in front of them the arch of foliage 
opened and revealed the sunlit meadows beyond. 

Reginald leaned forward, with his hands upon 
his knees and his head lower than the girl's who 
sat erect and silent, awaiting his words and pray- 
ing inwardly that she might make no mistake. 

*' Well, this is how it all came about," he began. 
''I was brought up here between my father on 
the one side, very stem as it becomes a man to be, 
but over stern perhaps for a father — pardon me 
for sajdng this; it is necessary in order that you 
may understand — on the other hand, my mother 
very tender alwajrs, but absorbed in her duties as 
mistress of a great place which she managed alone, 
with old-fashioned servants whose outward def- 
erence often hides careless indifference to their 
duties, and farmers who are mere hired agents, 
with none of that loyalty and attachment to the 
soil which you in France doubtless imagine to be 
characteristic of our great feudal estates. My 
brother was much younger than I, having been 
born about the time I left Redhall for Eton. So 
I was brought up in this comer of old England and 
on my father's Lancashire estate, much like one 
of those eighteenth century feudal lords who di- 
vided their time between field sports and psalm- 
singing. In matters of religion I was trained to 



'^i 



THE BARRIER 35 

exact attendance on the services of our church, 
and a vigorous intolerance — ^if not of every other 
form of belief — at least of Catholicism. My 
parents allowed me to be brought up just as they 
had been, and among my earliest reading books 
were "Fox's Book of Martyrs," and "The Story 
of Liberty." Do you know those two books?" 

" By name only." 

"Well, both represent the Catholics as blood- 
thirsty persecutors and barbarians, and my father 
never pronounced the word without scorn, or 
spoke of Mary Tudor otherwise than as ^Bloody 
Mary.' So that, while still very young, I burned 
with righteous zeal against them, and wondered 
how my mother could tolerate an Irish maid of 
that faith beneath her roof. Forgive me for 
mentioning my childish notions. I have been 
completely cured of these unjust prejudices 
against Catholicism. My father, however, stands 
where he has always stood." 

"And Lady Breynolds?" 

"My mother also, but her nature is different. 
My change of opinions has caused her great suf- 
fering I do not doubt, but she has always defended 
me to my father. She faces the world with a 
smile, but with my troubles alwajrs weighing on 
her heart. At this very moment I can fancy her t 
pointing out her pet deer and saying, 'Lookl we 
got our first pair from Lord Llandover, seventeen 
years ago'; while in her heart she is saying, 
* Reginald in opposition to his father, to the whole 
past of our racel How can I bear it?' She suf- 
fers, I know. She would not understand though 



36 THE BARRIER 

she would try to forgive me. I escaped from her 
influence very young, at thirteen, when it was de- 
cided that I should go to Eton. I had resolved 
before that to be a soldier, and when I said, *I 
want to enter the army; I want to fight and to 
cross Africa like Stanley,' my father approved 
and my mother tried to be as proud as he was 
that I had chosen that career, but she found it 
hard." 

"I can understand how she felt." 

"You see, then, how it was. I had the most 
high-minded and tenderest of mothers, but we 
were separated too early for any close intimacy 
between us on questions of conscience, even if it 
might ever have existed. Everything else we 
have had in common; the tie between us has been 
of the closest; it has been her pride and, at times, 
her joy. The inward struggle of which I am about 
to tell you has been until lately my own secret." 

Marie looking across the sunlit meadow saw the 
little group they had recently left returning to 
the castle, and involuntarily stretched out her 
hand towards them as if to say, "Why are you not 
here, you to whom this troubled soul rightly 
belongs?" Then her arm fell slowly to her side 
and she did not speak. 

"When I was at Eton," Reginald went on, 
"and later at the military school at Sandhurst, 
I had hours of ardent faith. The young so 
natiu'ally aspire to God. I listened to sermons 
by the best preachers of our Church. I found 
them often eloquent and elevated in thought, 
but I was conscious that the life of Christ on 



THE BARRIER 37 

earth was not brought near to me; that nothing 
I heard seemed to make it close and imitable. 
Morally I strove to follow those principles which 
I had heard preached and which; it is but 
just to say, I had seen practised, the chief of 
them being: *Seek the truth, follow the truth, 
cleave to the truth/ These lofty precepts in- 
spired my will, but I felt them to be too vague 
and abstract and I asked myself: Where is truth, 
since my code of action is not always the same as 
that of others? How decide, since it receives its 
sanction merely from my own authority, and I 
nmy be following a blind guide? Myhekrtsuf- 
fared as well as my reason, for the Divine ex- 
ample seemed rather an abstraction, as I told 
you, than a hving friend." 
"Your ideal seems to me a noble one." 
"Do not judge too hastily or you may be dis- 
appointed. I entered a Catholic church for the 
first time at Famborough, near Sandhurst, and 
first saw Catholic sisters at the Italian hospital 
in Queen Square— those with the great white 
caps you know." 
"The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent." 
"Yes, and the sight touched me most of all, 
because purity and charity seemed natural to 
them. They were not striving to be pure in 
heart but simply were so, nor to be devoted to the 
poor and suffering, for they were so naturally, 
and with their whole being. The music of your 
Church, too, and the discipline which I saw in 
everything and which I knew to be the same 
the world over, gave me the impression of a very 



38 THE BARRIER 

great and powerful organisation of which I was 
not a part. 

"At the same time, during the Sandhurst va- 
cations, I read many controversial works, espe- 
cially those undertaking to refute the errors of 
Rome. But they did not free me from these 
torturing doubts, as unrelenting as the fevers of 
the jvmgle. Finally I went out to join my regi- 
ment in India — ^my white regiment, you under- 
stand — and a year later I obtained my transfer to 
a native regiment, which had always been my 
desire. Out there I had many days of vigorous 
action without time for thought, but these were 
followed by long periods of inaction given over 
to haunting memories and deep musings. You 
caxmot imagine these tormenting mental preoccu- 
pations, you who have always lived in the quiet- 
ude of faith." 

"The peace, yes, but not the quietude. That 
does not belong to our day." 

"I mean that you have never felt called upon 
seriously to defend the ideas which constitute 
your bBlief. A young girl — especially among 
you — ^receives her faith ready-made and does not 
dream of changing it." 

"You are mistaken there. If she changes her 
faith less often than a man, it is because she 
knows it more thoroughly and can defend it 
better." 

"Then you can understand the state of a soul 
which sees the faith it has inherited wavering. 
For months out there in the mountains or the 
jungle, with fierce native tribes about us, I strug- 



THE BARRIER 39 

gled to come to some settled conviction on that 
question, so long debated between your Church 
and ours, of the Real Presence in the sacrament. 
That seems to me, to constitute the essence of 
religion. Certain of the faithful among us believe 
Vy^ it, but it is not authoritatively taught by our 
Church, and yet I find in St. John: 'Whoso 
eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath 
eternal life'; and in St. Matthew: 'Take, eat, 
this is my body.' Why suppress these texts? 
How explain them otherwise than by the Real 
Presence? During those solitary months I was 
brought face to face with the dilemma which con- 
stantly pressed upon my mind: If Catholicism 
be false what truth is there in the other Chris- 
tian Churches? Is Christianity itself an illusion 
cherished by thousands of human beings? For 
Catholicism appeared to me not as the object of 
my own faith, still so shattered and wavering, 
but as the type of Christianity at its highest 
degree of energy, in its closest union with the 
divine.'' 

"And during all this time were you praying 
for help? " asked Marie. 

''Yes, but I have not your faith. God has not 
answered me. I have destroyed the belief I once 
held and have not yet attained the other. It has 
become impossible to me to consider myself as 
belonging to the religious communion in which I 
was brought up, and at the same time when I turn 
towards what I have called the highest type of 
Christianity, the Roman faith, all the imagery, 
all the suspicions, all the imprecations in which I 



40 THE BARRIER 

have been nursed rise up once more and revive 
within me. I ask your pardon for sajdng this, 
but you must hear it to understand my state of 
mind. I think of Babylon, of the Scarlet Woman; 
I recall the apostrophe of George Borrow in 'The 
Bible in Spain,' where he says: Tope of Rome, I 
believe you to be as malicious as ever, but you are 
sadly deficient in power. You have become par- 
alytic, Batushca, and your club has degenerated 
to a crutch.' 

''Then I am aghast at the thought that men 
have endured such sufferings, waged such wars, 
defied hatred, endured humiliation, have loved, * 
obeyed, lifted their eyes to heaven, all for a mag- 
nificent but vain illusion ! Forgive my words. '' 

The serious lips which had already moved si- 
lently now replied simply: 

"I will pray for you." 

He was not thinking of her, but of himself. 
She merely replaced for him his absent friend. 
The fact of her being a woman, her youth and 
charm signified nothing to this man tormented 
and driven by higher and more pressing concerns, 
and did nothing towards modifying his stem logic 
or softening its bitter expression. Nevertheless 
some deep feeling now stirred within him as 
Marie Limerel spoke and he answered, with his 
eyes still full of trouble : 

"I am grateful to you, very grateful. And 
now that you know that I no longer belong to 
the Church of my father, nor, indeed, to any 
Church, advise me. Suppose that this evening, 
or to-morrow, my father requests me to aflfirm 



THE BARRIER 41 

by a word or a sign my adherence to that Church, 
what must I do? Where does loyalty and truth 
to my own soul lie?" 

He waited, drawing back a little in order to look 
at the thoughtful profile of this young girl who 
was about to judge him, and whose lips were to 
pronounce sentence. They parted and she spoke. 

'^ Why not refuse, since your conscience dictated 
that course this morning? " 

*^That would mean a final rupture with my 
father. He will not understand or pardon my 
insubordination." 

''Your liberty of conscience in fact." 

''Yes, my liberty. But in his eyes it will 
appear mere blindness and ingratitude. And I 
shall not even have the compensation of having 
sacrificed my place in my father's affections for 
a truth of which I am absolutely convinced. I 
shall be merely one who says: 'I do not see truth 
where it exists for you, nor do I see it clearly 
elsewhere? Is it not hard to take such an atti- 
tude when dictated by no positive conviction? " 

"You are obliged, above all, to be true." 

"You are right." 

"In your place I should do as I have said.*' 

Reginald was silent for a moment, then spoke 
firmly and deliberately: "I will do it." He re- 
mained for a while with his eyes fiixed on the 
ground; then his features relaxed in obedience to 
a wHl which had resumed its power, and as he 
rose his voice rang out with its wonted cheerful- 
ness: "We shall be late for tea and I shall have to 
apologise for detaining you. Let us hasten back. 



i 

42 THE BARRIER ' ' 

The Misses Hunter-Brice have been wanting so 
much to know you, they will be furious with me, 
and one of them seems like a very vindictive 
person. Miss Violet is a sort of witch." 

"Really!" 

"Yes, a witch wrapped in clouds of gossamer — 
you will see." 

And so the two young people hurried back 
along the avenue under its roof of spreading oak 
branches, trying to resume their every-day talk, 
and to forget the intimate and serious words that 
had just passed between them, but the deeply 
moving subject they had discussed could not be 
so lightly thrown aside. They walked rapidly, 
talking with forced enthusiasm of the sunset, 
trying to laugh and exchange light words which 
seemed to say, "We are strangers again," and yet 
they could not be quite the same to each other as 
before. 

No one expressed the least surprise at their 
prolonged absence. The golf players having now 
returned, some introductions took place, but tea 
was over and the little tables laden with buttered 
toast and mufi^, tea-cakes, chocolate, madeira, 
and sherry were set back against the wall. The 
talk was interrupted by the arrival of the master 
of the house with Mr. F. Land, and one of the 
ladies addressing the latter asked : 

"Did Sir George maintain his favourite parar 
dox, that Kent is a good fox-hunting county? " 

"No, I did not," asserted the baronet. "I am 
growing old and reforming." 

"I am sure at least that you bragged of your 



THE BARRIER 43 

dogs as the best pack in Kent or Sussex, superior 
even to the Tickham or Lord Lecanfield's. Now, 
didn't you, Sir George? And have you convinced 
your friend? " 

^' Convinced him I A man who understands 
everything and cares for nothing, not I." 

*' Nothing but books, you mean." 

"Yes, his own, perhaps," and the old squire, 
whose voice was hoarse with British fogs and 
fox-hunting, not to speak of British pipes and 
ale, burst into a resounding laugh. 

The distinguished critic, familiarly known 
among his intimates as Fred Land, replied geni- 
ally: 

"Not even those. I no longer look into my 
own books for fear of finding them unreadable. 
A thought only lasts a moment and is buried be- 
neath the next thought, one tomb upon another. 
I am much prouder, I assure you, of having.given 
Lady Breynolds a recipe for tea-cake than of 
writing any book." 

Whatever words the great critic uttered were 
belied by a lurking expression in the corner of his 
eyes, around his lips, or in the lines of his fore- 
head — a reserve, a contradiction, some hint of easy 
indifference or sarcasm, giving the impression of a 
deep and but partially understood power. This 
was suggested, also, by the carriage of his head, 
the imperious arch of the brows, the prominent 
nose, the loose masses of hair tossed back from 
his forehead like a mane. His smooth-shaven, 
leonine countenance was so dominating, so vital 
with intelligence that one scarcely noticed that the 



44 THE BARRIER 

body supporting it was below the medium height 
and somewhat obese and heavy with age. His 
hands, however, were still shapely and delicate, 
and adorned with rings of great price. This was the 
companion with whom his host was making the 
circuit of the hall, stopping to greet each of the 
guests in turn. The contrast they presented was 
striking, for Sir George, although of a caustic 
and practical mind, gave the impression of ex- 
treme physical, rather than intellectual, vigour. 

He was a man for whom the duties of hospi- 
tality had the importance of an hereditary func- 
tion, a prerogative of the aristocracy, of which he 
acquitted himself with the ease due to long habit, 
but not without a secret longing for the more 
congenial freedom of his out-of-door life. 

His appearance betrayed no symptoms of that 
gradual dackening of the energies in speech and 
gesture which is the forerunner of old age. He was 
clad in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers of a 
rough, greenish cloth which he called his armour, 
and shod with hob-nailed shoes, while his sturdy 
calves were clothed in gaiters of chamois leather. 

He stopped for a moment beside Reginald, who 
was standing by himself in a comer of the draw- 
ing-room, and measuring his son's lofty stature 
with a glance of secret pride he said: 

'^What have you been doing all the afternoon? 
I haven't seen you since morning." 

*^I have been for a walk with Mile. Limerel." 

'^You couldn't do better," and with that he 
resumed his circuit of the room, pausing to ad- 
dress the Hunter-Brice girls with somewhat formal 



THE BARRIER 45 

and studied pleasantries. These young ladies were 
engaged in imparting their views upon the pros- 
pects of the Labor party to Fred Land, who lis- 
tened with an air of patient resignation. 

Sir George proceeded on his way, stopping 
to joke more freely with his old crony, the tall 
and attenuated Richard Hargreave, a professor of 
Tamil, who spoke his own language badly and with 
a decided stammer. An animated discussion 
was going on between the liberal M. P. Donald 
Hagarty and the aged Hunter-Brice, a Tory, a 
protectionist, and the head of several railroad 
corporations, and Sir George threw himself into 
the contest with a zest which revealed the 
bom fighter, argumentative and stubborn. His 
twenty years' seniority over Lady Bre3molds 
showed plainly enough in the thin-skinned, florid 
countenance where the blue veins stood out prom- 
inently on forehead and temples, and a certain 
surly doggedness lurked in the lines around the 
mouth and thin set lips, and where the small, 
bead-like blue eyes twinkled beneath bristling 
shaggy eyebrows. His friends said of himl 
*'When Sir George dies, England will lose the 
most British of her sons." He was, in fact, the 
typical John Bull, a child of old England, firmly 
attached to old customs, to his rank, his Church, 
and all that, in his eyes, formed an essential part 
of the British Constitution. He rejected all nov- 
elties which conflicted with the existing scheme 
of things. He was faithful to his friendships as 
also to his enmities. No one beneath his roof 
ever dreamed of disputing his orders, or even 



2/ 



46 THE BARRIER 

asking for an explanation of them. He could 
forgive negligence, but never lack of discipline or 
what he chose to call insubordination. His faith 
in his country was boundless and touching. He 
read his Times daily in order to become more 
thoroughly imbued with a sense of the superi- 
ority of England and the progress of the empire, 
and stoutly refused to recognise any defects in 
his party or his nation. If by chance he dis- 
cerned a slight crack in the edifice, he proceeded 
to stop it up with an aphorism such as, "Have no 
fear, rely upon the sound common sense of the 
English people. *' He had never been seen to shed 
a tear. In times of bereavement or anxiety, such 
as the loss of his mother who had died at BLedhall, 
or once during an alarming illness of Lady Brey- 
nolds. Sir George had shut himself up in his own 
rooms and spoken to no one, but when he emerged 
he was seen to have altered and grown old, show- 
ing the deep hold which mental suffering had upon 
his stem and reticent nature. 

Evening was now drawing on. Through the 
long windows the distant hills and the fringe of 
forest could be seen glowing in the amber light of 
the sinking sun. Lady Breynolds rose, as a signal 
to her guests that they might seek their rooms for 
a little repose before dressing for dinner. Half 
after eight saw them again traversing the bril- 
liantly lighted long gallery and re-entering the 
drawing-room, the men in dress suits, the ladies 
in low evening gowns not all designed perhaps 
after the latest Parisian fashion. 

Miss Violet Hunter-Brice, for example, had 



THE BARRIER 47 

seen fit to swathe herself in bUlowy scarfs of sea- 
green gauze, which cast strange reflections on her 
neck and shoulders and her long, pale face, giving 
her a studied resemblance to the fay Melusine, or 
the fabled enchantress of some old romance. 

Her mother, on the other hand, was wearing 
voluminous puffed sleeves of some remotely 
ancient fashion; but in spite of these minor eccen- 
tricities of style the general effect of the toilettes, 
coiffures, and jewels was one of individuality, 
combined with a certain traditional elegance. 
The men wore evening clothes with the same easy 
air as their sporting suits, their low shoes per- 
mitting a display of silken socks of varied hues, 
of which some of them appeared not a little vain. 

Even the great Fred Land had not disdained to 
apply his intellect to the frivolities of dress. He 
appeared to have refreshed himself by a nap, and 
his fine face, never devoid of thought, had assumed 
an added expression of malice, irony, and wilful 
paradox. 

Marie found herself seated at diimer between 
a shy youth who had nothing to say, and the 
Oriental scholar, Hargreave, who was evidently 
fascinated by the sea-green draperies of Miss Vio- 
let Hunter-Brice on his other side; she therefore 
was at liberty to observe those about her, and to 
let her thoughts wander back to the confidences 
she had received from the son of the house that 
afternoon. Since their return from the walk he 
had not addressed a word to her nor appeared 
conscious of her presence. She could see him 
now at the farther end of the table chatting with 



48 THE BARRIER 

Dorothy, his usual quiet gravity unclouded by 
any shade of uneasiness, and with that apparent 
impassibility of demeanour which result from 
the English training, and is regarded as merely 
the proper evidence of self-control. He bent 
over his little neighbour with something of the 
air of one of the Great Powers condescending 
to a smaller principality, listening to its ap- 
peals for aid, and vouchsafing it some small but 
precious scraps of stored-up wisdom. Then sud- 
denly a gleam of youth lighted up his face, the 
firm-set lips relaxed and grew dreamy, the calm 
blue eyes opened wider, while varjring shades of 
expression, smiling, impatient, challenging, lent 
animation to his clear-cut features. Reginald's 
was indeed one of the three faces at table which 
evinced a strongly marked personality, the other 
two being his father's and Fred Land's. 

Sir George, who was doing ample justice to the 
viands and the excellent wines set before him, 
occasionally raised his imperious, choleric visage 
from his plate to address some bantering speech 
to each guest in turn, in a somewhat similar tone 
to that with which he accosted his huntsmen 
when riding to hounds. 

Fred Land, after remaining silent during the 
earlier courses, had been entertaining his neigh- 
bour, the handsome Mrs. Hunter^Brice, on some 
subject, doubtless of deep interest to himself, 
as in fact most subjects were, and was now ready, 
as was evident from the eager glances he cast 
about him, to seize or create an opportunity for 
addressing the whole table. 



THE BARRIER 49 

He was an excellent t3rpe of the imperialist 
temperament, while Sir George might be described, 
like the commercial companies of his native land, 
as strictly *'limited,*V for while his nature was 
perhaps as ardent as the other man's, it was far 
narrower and more insular in all its manifestations. 

"Doubtless, Lady Breynolds," Hargreave was 
sajring, "Dimitri Keiromenos'« book on contem- 
porary Greek writers is a painstaking work." 

"The epithet is poor but just," remarked Fred 
Land. 

"Is it in English?" inquired Sir George. 

"No; it is not translated yet." 

"Then I shall postpone not reading it until it is. 
Bless me, what a waste of timel The world 
would get on just as well if no such books existed." 

"Plato made the same observation in regard to 
the poets," replied Mr. Land, "and we may cheer- 
fully echo it concerning Keiromenos's bookf There 
are countries too small to support a literature of 
their own, and modem Greece is one of them. 
But as to literary art in general, my dear Sir 
George, it is the leading power in a state, more 
important than its navy or its commerce. No 
country is really great which has not received its 
patent of nobility from literature. There are 
peers among nations, Sir George, and baronets 
and gentlemen, just as there are hod-carriers and 
cockneys." 

"You believe in the power of the literary class, 
then?" 

" If I did not I should certainly not belong to it. " 

"Well answered! but if that is the case, why are 



60 THE BARRIER 

you always attacking it? You have not spared 
one of our leading novelists." 

"That is because I love them, Sir George. I 
warn them, I give them good advice gratuitously. 
I am the whipper-in of their corporation. Besides 
I haven^t attacked them oH. You exaggerate my 
merits." 

Several women's voices were raised in protest, 
and Lady Breynolds laughingly named a couple 
of famous authors whom Land had handled mer- 
cilessly, while Mrs. Hunter-Brice and Dorothy 
added two or three more names, to the intense 
satisfaction of the critic whom nothing gratified so 
much as evidences of his unpopularity. He re- 
peated the names of his victims slowly, rolling 
them on his tongue as if he were tasting a delicious 
morsel. 

"It may be so," he observed. "I admit that 
several of the writers you mention may have fared 
rather badly at my hands." 

"What is it you reproach them with?" asked 
Hargreave. "More than one of them has style, 
an easy, flowing style." 

"l^es, they write as they talk. That is what 
you mean, is it not? A very good way, my dear 
fellow, if one happens to talk well." 

Whereupon the critic poured forth an amusing 
diatribe on modern English prose, callmg it the 
language of the turf and the counting-room, a 
speech which has ceased to ring with the reso- 
nance of verse. Then suddenly breaking off in the 
midst of a sentence and striking a graver key: 
"You ask me what I reproach these writers with? 



THE BARRIER 51 

I will tell you. With refusing to open their eyes 
to the perils that threaten us." 

^' What perils?" queried the baronet. 

At that moment the servants were setting out 
a service of rare old porcelain brought from China 
by some ancestor of Sir George's, one of the treas- 
ures of Redhall. 

^'The spirit of sedition which is infecting us, 
Sir George." 

The baronet gave a dry laugh as he turned his 
twinkling blue eyes on the speaker. 

''So it has been ever since Adam was in the 
garden, my friend. You may make yourself easy 
on that score; we are not like our neighbours, 
rash and ill-balanced — I beg your pardon, 
Madame. I have always put my faith in the 
sound good sense of the English people, and I 
have never been disappointed. What new peril 
have you discovered? The agitation of the 
masses? It has always been the same, more or 
less. What do you fibad that is new?" 

"It is no longer an agitation for mere material 
betterment," said Hargreave. 

''It has become political," added Fred Land. 

"And religious," said another voice. 

All eyes were turned towards Reginald Brey- 
nolds, who spoke with no thought of uttering 
paradoxes or making agreeable conversation, but 
as if on the defensive, impassive as usual, with 
head thrown back and eyes seeking a contra- . 
diction, much as he looked for a ball on the re- 
bound on the tennis-court, with the same tension 
of mind and forward poise of the body. 



62 THE BARRIER 

Sir George frowned impatiently. 

''What nonsense you are talking, Reginald/' 
he said. ''The workingmen are not stirred up 
about creeds. The shilling takes the place of 
honour in all this business. I don't see your 
point." 

"I am not speaking of popular demonstrations 
of a social or political nature. For those I feel a 
natural sympathy." 

''Natural, you sayl I don't feel it. If it were 
natural I should feel it, too." 

"If you would only allow him to explain him- 
self," murmured Lady Breynolds. 

"There is something besides," pursued her son 
in a vibrating voice. "A spirit of disorder and 
evil which exists in every country — ^among us, too. 
I see it plainly. It is a conspiracy against the 
soul, seeking to drag it down — ^a rage against all 
that raises mankind, what I call the essential revo- 
lution. I sometimes think that if England is ever 
attacked by the masses, it will be because of the 
eucharist which has been seen lifted upon her 
hills." 

"Poet," broke in Fred Land. "You are a 
genuine poet, Reginald, and poetry carries us 
far." 

"Hitherto our country has been left to its 
spiritual torpor," he puiued, "but she is now 
turning towards the divine, and hence this war 
against the new spirit which is filling her. That 
is my belief." 

"He is not a poet, my dear fellow," said Sir 
George aside to Fred Land; "he is a madman. 



THE BARRIER 53 

Tell me this, Reginald, is it papistiy which you 
call divine?" 

"I cannot say out of what truths the supreme 
truth is made, I do not know by what name it is 
called. But for me the religious question takes 
the lead of all others in the life of the people as 
well as of the individual. I believe that the 
spirit of Christ has never been so present in the 
world as now. Though his name is less often 
pronounced, it is implied in every great move- 
ment whether in love or hate. I believe that this 
new spiritual drama will end in a resurrection." 

The courage of the young man who spoke out 
of the depths of his heart was so simple that all 
listened gravely, more or less moved. Marie 
Limerel wished th&t his face were turned towards 
her so that he might read her sympathy in her 
eyes, but having made his answer, he now quietly 
resumed his talk with Dorothy. 

Fred Land, who had little taste for religious 
discussions, was also bending once more over the 
lady beside him. Sir George merely remarked: 
"He would make an excellent parson, wouldn't 
he?" But the tone in which he said it showed 
that his annoyance was keen and his resentment 
deep. 

A general effort on the part of the guests was 
powerless to restore the commonplace tone of the 
previous conversation. Sir George was in greater 
haste than usual to catch Lady Breynolds's eye, 
whereupon host and hostess rose simultaneoudy, 
and the ladies left the dining-room, escorted to the 
door by the baronet, while the men all stood, 



54 THE BARRIER 

watching the softly tinted floating draperies gather 
like a cloud in the doorway and disappear. 

As Sir George resumed his seat, the butler 
brought a fresh bottle of port and a silver case 
in which lay piled, in separate compartments, 
Turkish, Egyptian, and Russian cigarettes. 

Their glasses refilled, the men drew closer 
around Sir George, their voices assuming an 
easier tone, expressive of a slight relief from con- 
straint which they would have been loath to ac- 
knowledge. Fred Land, apprehensive as to the 
temper of his host, and wishing to ward off any 
chance of a quarrel between father and son, has- 
tened to rally Robert Hargreave on the subject 
of certain a8l)ersions which the newspapers had 
lately cast upon the state of morals in the great 
universities. The scholar took up the cudgels 
in behalf of these institutions, supported by 
Hunter-Brice, who had been, in his day, a bril- 
liant student at Eton and Oxford. 

Reginald sat like one pursuing his own train of 
thought, who catches the sound but not the sens^ 
of the talk around him. Sir George, sitting very 
erect, with his eyes obstinately bent upon the 
goblet before him, glowing with the tawny hue of 
the wine and reflecting the gleam of the candles, 
seemed, contrary to his custom, to be sunk in 
reflection. Suddenly Reginald, who was watch- 
ing him intently, saw him raise his glass with a 
rapid movement to the level of his eyes, and on 
seeing the gesture turned pale. "To-day is Sun- 
day," said Sir George, "and in accordance with 
the old English custom among friends, I offer 



THE BARRIER 55 

two toasts." He paused a moment, holding his 
glass with a steady hand, then added: ''Gentle- 
men, the king, " 

Every glass was raised in response, forming a 
crown held aloft by the hands of seven loyal Eng- 
lishmen; then the glasses being emptied, at a 
sign from their master the servants refilled them. 

With a more deliberate gesture Sir George raised 
his again and said with greater emphasis, ''And 
now the Church;" This time every glass save one 
was raised in honour of the Church of England, 
and Sir George, without putting his to his lips, 
continued to hold it high and to gaze straight 
before him, though the whole current of his blood 
swayed to his right hand where sat the one whose 
glass was still untouched. 

Several of the men who had begun to drink 
paused, only old Hunter-Brice quaffed his port 
to the dregs and murmured "Excellent," but in 
so low a tone that the word dropped unnoticed in 
the silence. 

Every movement ceased; Sir George^s ruddy 
face had turned livid, the tawny liquid in his 
wine-glass trembled and two drops fell. Then he 
lowered his arm, set the glass back on the table, 
and without bending his head closed his eyes. 

Every one glanced stealthily or boldly at Regi- 
nald Breynolds, whose youthful countenance was 
rendered impassible by his will, and whose hand 
was still stretched out with fingers apart as if to 
grasp the crystal stem of his wine-glass. The 
baronet, without a glance at him, pushed back his 
chair violently and exclaimed. 



y 



56 THE BARRIER 

"Let us go." 

Then suddenly recovering himself, he seemed 
to realise that he was neglecting his duties as a 
host, and passing his hand across his brow he 
attempted to smile as he added: 

"Excuse me, my friends, I was forgetting that 
you had not smoked." 

He struck a match and held it out towards 
the cigarette of his nearest neighbour. A dead 
silence followed while the tobacco caught fire, but 
the friend did not raise the cigarette to his lips, 
and as the match burnt out the men all rose. 



n 

Out of respect for himself and his guests Sir 
George had controlled his anger, but he could 
not obliterate all traces of those cruel moments 
which had strained his nerves beyond endurance, 
and stirred his pulses to fever heat. 

On seeing him enter the drawing-room the 
ladies waiting there divined that there had been 
a conflict between father and son, and that neither 
had yielded; and while pursuing their chat on 
feminine themes — ^those airy nothings upon which 
they could talk without thiiiing — all were secretly 
thrilled and agitated at the sight of this old man, 
evidently wounded to his heart's* core. Impatient 
as they were to learn what had taken place, they 
took pains to raise their voices and to carry 
on a still more animated and futile conversation, 
under cover of which they contrived to inter- 
change whispered comments and to direct furtive 
glances from time to time at Sir Greorge and at 
Reginald. 

The former immediately on his entrance had 
seized his friend, Fred Land, by the arm and 
drawn him into the recess of a window at the 
farther end of the vast, brilliantly lighted room, 
and while he remained standing there, with his 
eyes fixed in a vacant stare, the critic with a 

57 



58 THE BARRIER 

zest which did not appear forced, was pouring 
into his ear a narrative of youthful exploits in 
which they had both taken part. ''Yes, George,'^ 
he was saying, ''don't you remember that you 
had told the groom to walk the horses up and 
down outside while we, a party of hungry and 
worn-out hunters, poured into the inn?" From 
time to time the baronet's lips parted as if to say, 
"Go on, the hour is nearly up," but he gave no 
other sign of attention. Lady Breynolds con- 
tinued to perform her duties as hostess in ap- 
parent unconsciousness, moving from group to 
group with her usual quiet dignity and gracious- 
ness, as if seeking to prolong for one evening more 
the tradition of Redhall's happy days. 

Reginald, seated at the opposite end of the 
room, was showing Cuthbert Hagarty the big 
portfolio of sketches in crayon and water-colours 
which Sir George had brought home from China 
and Australia. He had not once approached 
Marie. His purpose, stimulated by a woman's 
word, kept the track he had marked out for it; 
and if he suffered in consequence this was no time 
to show it. Among the whispered comments 
exchanged between the guests two recurred like 
a refrain: "Reginald did all that loyalty required 
of him," and "Sir George can settle the matter 
without us." 

Mme. Limerel and Marie departed early. Their 
baggage was brought down and placed on the 
car which awaited them at the door, the fur 
robes were wrapped around their knees, and the 
door closed upon them with a sharp click. 



THE BARRIER 59 

Dorothy, who was watching their departure 
from the nearest window, tu^ed to Reginald 
saying: "That is their farewell to Redhall. How 
sharp and dry it sounds! And yet she was a sym- 
pathetic creature, that French girL Shall you 
see her again? " 

''I think not," replied Reginald. 

The car had soon left the park and was whirl- 
ing along the country road. The weather had 
changed; a south-west wind was sweeping across 
the British Isles like a flood-tide without an 
ebb. Except where the lower currents were bro- 
ken by hills or dwellings, the tree-tops bent and 
swayed before it and the foliage rustled in the 
blast. 

Far overhead a great bank of cloud, uniform, 
dense, and black, covered two-thirds of the sky, 
while in the east a few pale stars twinkled on the 
edge of the storm. This cloud which spread over 
many counties and was laden with the smoke of 
factory towns, heavy with the dust and d6bris 
of huLn wretchedn^, and the miasma arising 
from crowded streets, would soon float above the 
North Sea and be lost in the immensity of its 
icy billows. As Marie watched it, her thoughts 
were busy with Reginald's confidences and the 
subsequent stormy scene to which she had heard 
veiled allusions. 

Finally Mme. Limerel spoke: "Your long walk 
with Reginald Breynolds this afternoon must have 
given you a clew to the scene which took place 
after we left the dining-room. It seems to have 
been an intense and moving one." 



60 THE BARRIER 

"Yes, he told me he feared something of the 
sort; but I did not understand at the time what 
he meant." 

"I am not asking you to betray his secrets, 
cherie" 

"They are indeed not mine, mamma. If they 
were you should be told all." 

After a pause Mme. Limerel added: "He re- 
minds me of the portraits of Cardinal Newman 
in his youth." 

"Really! That strikes me as more just than 
the comparison you made the other day — do you 
remember — ^the cow-boy?" Marie Limerel's head 
stood out in delicate relief against the gray lining 
of the limousine as she leaned back, shrouded in 
her veils and with half-closed eyes. Her mother 
continued to gaze out at the landscape as they 
whirled by, at the writhing shrubs which in the 
uncertain light looked like tethered animals strug- 
gling to break loose. To the north and west the 
lighthouses and harbour beacons, the gleaming 
line of quays and jetties, formed a great half-circle 
of light beneath the canopy of cloud sweeping 
out towards the open sea. 

At Redhall the evening had ended early. The 
other guests were all staying in the house, and 
shortly after eleven the lights were extinguished 
in the drawing-room, and the ladies having re- 
tired, the men had betaken themselves to the 
smoking-room, a spacious apartment brightly 
lighted and lined with books. 

The official curfew having sounded they en- 
tered quietly. 



THE BARRIER 61 

Some of them had already divested themselves 
of formal evening dress. Fred Land had merely 
substituted easy slippers for his patent-leather 
pumps, but Hunter-Brice had assumed a complete 
suit of chamois-coloured flannel, and the Honour- 
able Donald Hagarty, M. P., had exchanged his 
black coat for a velveteen shooting-jacket. The 
younger men were still in evening dress, and all 
were smoking, sipping whisky-and-soda, and re- 
suming the easy talk and laughter customary at 
RedhaJl. 

Sir George, buried in a deep easy-chair beside 
his old friend Hagarty, was staring into the park 
and talking, as was his wont, in abrupt, jerky 
sentences, between the puffs of his cigar, and with 
long intervals of silence, during which both men 
listened to the voices of the other smokers who 
seemed to be all talking at once. 

To all appearances, everything was proceeding 
according to the usual routine of the house, but 
no one present put any faith in this outward calm, 
and from time to time anxious glances were di- 
rected towards the old lord of Redhall, while 
murmurs of restrained sympathy encompassed 
him. 

A little past midnight, as Fred Land, Robert 
Hargreave, and young Cuthbert Hagarty ap- 
proached the baronet to bid him good-night, he 
signed to Reginald, who was following them, to 
remain behind. For some moments he continued 
his talk with the worthy Hagarty, contesting 
point by point that liberal M. P/s views upon the 
naval progranmie of the admiralty. 



62 THE BARRIER 

Their cigars had finally gone out and Mr. Hag- 
arty was about to light another when Sir George 
stopped him, and handing him a gold-ringed 
Havana, said gravely: ''Take that with you, my 
friend; you can smoke it in your room. I have 
some business to settle with my son to-night." 
Recalled to a consciousness of the family drama 
which he had momentarily forgotten, Hagarty 
started, and stared at the cigar, twisting it in his 
fingers, while he asked himself whether he might 
urge his old friend to show indulgence towards his 
son and heir. But his natural reserve and dread 
of interfering in the affairs of others prevailed, 
and he contented himself with grasping the hand 
of father and son in turn before he withdrew, 
leaving them alone. As his footsteps died away 
along the corridor, Sir George, steadying himself 
by grasping the arms of his chair, turned slowly 
round to face Reginald, who, seeing that his father 
was about to speak, drew back a step or two. 
The baronet raised his head with a sudden move- 
ment and gazed fixedly at his son; then his thin 
lips parted and in a bw tone, as if to show his 
perfect self-possession, he spoke: 
"I cannot remember a sadder day than this." 
''Nor I, father," answered Reginald. 
"Nor a more disgraceful one." 
"There you must permit me to differ from you." 
"What you have done is disgraceful. You have 
refused to pledge the prosperity of the Church, 
here under my roof, on this land granted us by 
Queen Elizabeth. Never, do you hear, since 
toasts have been drunk at Redhall, has such an 



THE BARRIER 63 

affront been offered our house by a stranger as I 
have endured to-night from my own son, in the 
presence of my guests. What have you to say? 
How do you justify yourself for this refusal, follow- 
ing upon that of this morning?'' 

^' You know my respect for you, father " 

"No idle words, if you please. Your reasons, 
if you have any." 

"I have one — ^the same for both refusals. I 
have been studying religious questions » 

"That matters nothing to me. You may be- 
lieve within yourself whatever you like, but in 
England the Anglican Church is a national institu- 
tion, and respect for it is a duty we owe the State. 
An affront to the one is an affront to the other. 
To deny the Church is to deny one's country." 

"There again I must differ from you. The 
King always — ^the Church if I can. Allegiance to 
it is not imposed on one. I am free. I claim the 
right of private judgment." 

"Not at all! Traditions are a law and so is 
family union. You may separate yourself on one 
point or another from the Established Church, but 
to refuse to pay honour to an essentially English 
institution is a disgrace to an Englishman. One 
of my race! Do you think I am a man to en- 
dure it?" 

Reginald shook his head like one who feels pow- 
erless to explain his views, so widely divergent 
were they from his father's. But Sir George 
insisted. 

"Explain yourself, that is all I ask. But you 
cannot get out of it by mere words." 



64 THE BARRIER 

"I am not attempting to get out of it. I find 
myself in a position which I have been dread- 
ing since this morning. I have displeased you 
deeply. But I owe it to myself, before all things, 
to be sincere and to let my actions accord with 
my thoughts. The whole truth is that I have 
changed. I am no longer bound to our Church 
by ties of faith. Do not fear, however, my in- 
veighing against those whp remain faithful to her 
creed — ^many of them are too dear to me. But 
to profess a faith I no longer hold, even by a sign 
— a, false sign — ^to swear an eternal allegiance to 
which no thought within me corresponds — I can 
do it no longer!" 

Sir George's voice rose to a higher pitch as he 
retorted: "A papist then!" 

^'If I were one, father, I should only be reverting 
to the faith of our fathers before Elizabeth's time." 

/'They had not been ennobled by their sover- 
eign, Reginald." 

''But they were men, and freemen, and they 
held the Roman faith." 

"Not the English." 

"Be that as it may. It was the universal 
faith. Reassure yourself, however, I am not the 
papist you imagine. It is that which has made 
this step more difficult and, therefore, more praise- 
worthy." 

"Pshaw!" 

"I do not belong to the Roman Church. I am 
even far, as I believe, from adopting that faith. 
I am merely separated from our Church and in a 
state of painful doubt." 



/ 



THE BARRIER 65 

"Well, sir, I am about to make it more painful 
to you." 

"I do not know how that can be." 

"You will soon see," and as he spoke Sir George 
raised the mighty fist with which he reined in his 
Irish hunters, and brought it down upon the table 
with a crashing blow. "I will not suffer this 
estate to descend,' on my death, to one who insults 
those from whom I hold itl" 

Reginald was silent. 

"I must request you, Reginald, to open that 
bookcase; on the lower right hand shelf you see 
those volumes of the 'Laws of England,' bound in 
red morocco?" 

"Yes, father." 

"Look for the laws of William III. Good! 
Hand the book to me." 

Sir George uncrossed his legs and taking the 
huge quarto stamped with the coat-of-arms of the 
Breynolds upon his knees, turned the leaves with 
a firm hand until he came to the "Fines and Re- 
coveries Act of 1833," chapter 74. He turned 
his stem old face upon Reginald, all his prodig- 
ious vitality concentrated in the small blue eyes. 
He was about to judge and to pronounce sentence 
in the name of his house; and without seeking it 
he wore on his countenance a look of secret irony, 
combined with the ardent satisfaction of a loyal 
judge sentencing a political criminal. He was 
not avenging himself; he was the representative 
and defender of Old England. 

"The wording is explicit," he said. "I have 
the right, and I shall act upon it, to disinherit you 



66 THE BARRIER 

from my estate of Redhall; which is not entailed^ 
and to leave it to your brother. It is only neces- 
sary, you see, to register the decision in the upper 
courts within six months." And far as he was 
from being in a jovial mood, the old gentleman 
chuckled dryly as he added: ''It will merely cost 
me a tax of one shilling per seventy-two words. 
Well, what do you say to that?" 

Reginald, standing impassively before him, 
replied: 

''That you have the power to do as you say." 

"And you may as well add," returned Sir 
George, "that you know me well enough to be 
sure that I shall do it." 

"Yes, father." 

"And you may also add that it is perfectly 
just." 

"I have nd doubt, sir, that you think it so." 

"Not at all ! It is just in itself. I will have no 
changes at Redhall — ^no timber felled nor boun- 
daries altered nor tenants evicted nor the ancient, 
common faith abandoned. Why, the very deer 
would flee the park if it had a papist master! 
No, no! that shall never be." 

"I must assure you once again, father, that I 
have not become a Roman Catholic." 

"And I must assure you that you will be one 
soon. I am not a man to be deceived. I see 
where you stand. But I will content myself with 
your formal assurance. Promise me, Reginald, 
that on the day when you give in your adherence 
to the Romish Church you will give me notice, 
wherever I am and wherever you may be." 



THE BARRIER 67 

The young man's eyes sought for any trace of 
faltering; any gleam of pity or help, in those keen 
blue eyes which probed, urged, commanded him. 

A hard condition, he thought. You threaten a 
conscience already wavering, and you are rein- 
forced by all the power of nature, of old customs 
and surroundings. You know how I love this 
place of which you are so ready to despoil me. 
But he uttered no word of this. 

^'If you think it just to require such a pledge, I 
will give it,'* was all he said. 

''Good! I count upon it then." 

These words were pronounced with the harsh- 
ness of a sentence, and the expression of Sir 
George's face grew more disdainful as he added : 

''It strikes me, Reginald, that a journey might 
profitably occupy the remainder of your leave." 

"That is what I was about to propose," replied 
the young officer coldly. "I had intended to 
travel later, I shall now go at once." 

"When do you start?" 
^ "To-night, SU-." 

"Very well. I must request you not to have 
Vulcan harnessed, as he limped this afternoon. 
My other horses are at your service." So saying 
the old man rose, and without one glance or word 
of farewell, left the room. 

Reginald remained standing, following his 
father's retreating figure until it disappeared, 
then turned away and passed his hand across his 
eyes, while every word and act of the day crowded 
upon his mind. How could one short day have 
sufliced for all these changes? His life, his future. 



68 THE BARRIER 

his prospects^ words so full of meaning this 
morning, had grown empty now. He could have 
wept over this utter ruin had not his manhood 
and a life-long habit of self-restraint checked this 
momentary weakness. 

He approached the window and stared out into 
the blue distances of the park, which lay bathed 
in dew and glimmering softly in the moonlight. The 
path leading to the gardener's cottage stretched 
clear and white across the lawn like a streak of 
silver. At the same moment he caught sight of the 
head gardener himself, the stout, important, 
thoroughly British William, steppmg along this 
path as noiselessly as possible, all the curves 
and amplitudes of his sturdy figure emphasised 
by the moonlight. 

He was on his way home from the servants' hall, 
where he was a frequent and welcome guest, and 
where it was the custom, whenever there were 
guests at dinner, to celebrate the occasion by 
quaffing loyaJ bumpers of port to the master's 
health — ^a custom which Sir George tolerated and 
paid for, along with many other time-worn abuses. 

William was, in consequence, mildly tipsy and 
swayed slightly on his stout calves as he has- 
tened towards his pretty, thatched cott^e, em- 
bowered in honeysuckle and jasmine. 

What strange impulses sometimes move a man 
in the depths of trouble ! 

Reginald threw open the window, thereby 
causing William to give a guilty start. He quickly 
recovered, however, on recognising his young 
master, and touched the flat plaid cap which he 



THE BARRIER 69 

seldom removed entirely from his head, while 
smiling in an embarrassed way as if not quite 
sure whether he was asleep or awake. 

*'Are you on your way to bed, William?" 

"Yes, Master Reginald. Good-night, sir." 

"Doesn't RedhaJl look pretty in the moonlight, 
William?" 

"Why, yes, Mr. Reginald. Redhall always 
looks pretty enough to me, by night or day. I 
am walking about a bit, you see, though it is 
rather late." 

The old man's joviality increased as his eyelids 
grew heavier. It was the first time since Regi- 
nald's return that he had had an opportunity to 
talk freely with him, as in the old Eton and Alder- 
shot days. 

"Just fancy, Mr. Reginald," he went on, "the 
old fox has littered just outside the garden-hedges. 
I took care not to tell Sir George. He likes sport 
well enough, but not as you do. Master Reginald. 
He would have ordered me to kill the cubs. I 
could have done it easily enough, but I thought 
what a pleasure it would be for Master Reginald 
to hunt the young foxes in October. He! he! 
The little devils have already eaten more rabbits 
and pheasants than they are worth, but I like to 
see you galloping through the park, Mr. Reginald. 
That will be in October." 

"I fear not, William, but I thank vou all the 
same. Good-night." 

"Good-night, sir." 

The young man watched the old servant re- 
turning to his tranquil home where he would 



70 THE BARRIER 

sleep secure of the morrow, and attached to the 
estate as firmly as its very walls. Closing the 
window, he rang for his man and ordered him to 
prepare everything for a journey and to give 
notice at the stables. 

"It will be a long journey," he added. ''This 
is what you are to pack for me." And seating 
himself at the table where the box of cigars and 
the volume of the laws of England were still lying, 
he hastily scrawled a few directions. 

He then ascended the stairs, taking care to 
tread lightly lest some of the guests might over- 
hear him and come out of their rooms to propose 
a moonlight Walk or a row on the lake, as often 
happened at this hour. 

He crossed the gallery leading into the left wing, 
and finally paused before a door bearing the in- 
scription, ' ' Princess Mary's Room. ' ' This was the 
chamber where a king's daughter had slept for a 
night, many years before. 

As he approached, the door opened softly and 
Lady Bre3molds appeared on the threshold, still 
in evening dress, with a light shawl over her 
shoulders. 

''Oh, Reginaldl Is it you?" she cried. "Tell 
me what has happened. I am dying of anxiety. 
Come quickly and tell me that there has been no 
violence." 

"No, mother, only words; but those were de- 
cisive ones — ^I must go." 

"That was what I feared. You have deserved 
it, then?" 

"I have decided it." 



THE BARRIER 71 

"My poor, poor chUd!" Tender and terrified 
she opened her arms, with a splendid gesture, an 
unconsciously tragic figure, as she enfolded her 
tall son and drew him down beside her to listen to 
his story, stifling her own disapproval, the re- 
proaches which her conscience inspired — since she 
was as firmly attached to the Established Church 
as her husband — ^but at this moment she hearkened 
to her motherly pity only. 

At her side Reginald gave way to his grief. He 
shed no tears, but whereas with his father he had 
remained coldly respectful, alone with her and 
about to leave her, he made no attempt to hide 
his sorrow. He knew that as her cWld he in- 
spired her with the tenderest pity, although his 
anguish of soul woke no responsive echoes in 
hers; that his disinterested and honourable mo- 
tives were ignored by her who loved him, who 
was his mother, and who could only say: 

"My Reginald, how can you be so cruel to your- 
self as well as to us? " 

He yielded his hands to her fond clasp and in 
her heart she felt a secret pride that her handsome 
son, this splendid man-child who towered a head 
above her, was leaning to-night upon her maternal 
support as he had done in his childhood. She made 
no attempt to dissuade him from his purpose, 
knowing well that Reginald's resolves were not 
easily shaken. But she entered into all the details 
of hi8 proposed journey with the instinct of one 
who has been a traveller, and for whom the names 
of remote lands and cities call up definite associa- 
tions. She was full of motherly anxiety for him. 



\ 



72 THE BARRIER 

"How will you live, my child?" she cried. 
"You have those savings which I used to reproach 
you for laying by?" 

"Yes. I shall spend all that now, and I hope to 
ask nothing from any one." 

"But I can help you a little, Reginald, and I 
shall, for your father has never objected or even 
questioned me as to the use I make of my own 
money. Very little it is, as you know." 

Her beautiful eyes, which were encircled by 
dark rings from the fatigue, emotion, and fever of 
the night, filled with tears as she sounded the 
depths of this sudden catastrophe, whose causes, 
alasl stretched so far into the past. She wept 
outright when Reginald admitted that Redhall 
might pass away from Sir George^s first-bom. 

"Ah! how can I defend you when it is you who 
have condemned yourself? And I shall no longer 
be here when that wicked act of folly is accom- 
plished." 

"What do we know of the future?" he an- 
swered. "I will not be the slave even of a for- 
tune, that is certain! But I am done now with 
theories and discussions. Beyond my promise 
and the present moment I affirm nothing. Only 
assure me that my name shall be spoken here 
sometimes, when you are alone, mother, or among 
my friends. And send me news often of Redhall." 

He rose as he said this, and tried to smile, a 
grievous effort sometimes. 

"Nearly two in the morning!" he exclaimed. 
"Poor mother! what a wretched night you have 
had." 



THE BARRIER 73 

''I would pray for many more like it, to have 
you still here, Reginald. When will you come 
back?" 

^'When my heart has changed — or yours and 
his." 

*'Alas!" And so they parted, but first Lady 
Bre3molds insisted that her son should carry away 
some renunders of his home, things which had 
belonged in his own room or in the nursery, and 
she pUed his anus up with photographs, a water- 
colour sketch, two or three books, and a few de- 
votional pictures with texts. At three o'clock 
the carriage stood before the door, with lanterns 
lighted. The air was chill and day was dawning 
in the infinitude of space between the earth and 
stars. The meadows gleamed pale around the 
castle and the shrubs and hedge-rows stood out 
like the delicate traceries on a moss-agate. 
Reginald made a sign that the carriage was to 
follow him and walked slowly down the avenue, 
drawing his hands through the dewy shrubs as he 
passed, and laying his fingers with a caressing 
touch on the pendent branches of the trees from 
which the dew-drops trickled with a soft, dripping 
sound. ''Thanks," he murmured, ''dear trees of 
home." 

At the turn in the path where the denser foliage 
was about to hide the walls of Redhall, he turned 
and faced the castle, with a lingering gaze over the 
slopes of lawn, the encircling trees, and the ave- 
nues opening like misty aisles into the forest 
beyond; then with a last look at his mother's 
window he hastened on to overtake the carriage. 




74 THE BARRIER 

There was no trace of tears on his fair young face, 
but his heart was weeping silently. 

'* You will inform madame as soon as she comes 
in that I am waiting for her in my study.'* 

*'Yes, Monsieur." 

^' And I am at home to no one else.'* 

M. Victor Limerel wore at this moment his busi- 
ness expression, whicr^ered entirely from that 
which he wore in society. His formidable bull- 
dog jaw and protruding underlip gave his face, at 
such times, a look of insolent strength and dogged 
obstinacy, with which his eyes harmonised, promi- 
nent, keen, and dark, beneath heavy bristling 
eyebrows. Although past sixty he had not a 
single *^hite hair, and his moustache, which 
drooped at the corners of his mouth, was black 
except for a slight yellowish tinge from constant 
smoking. His neck was short, and below the 
broad shoulders his figure dwindled rapidly and 
was supported on thin, nervous limbs which bore 
this ill-shaped body about briskly. 

All industrial and financial Paris knew the 
''Soci6t6 Fr^ngaise des Filatures de Laine," whose 
principal factories were at Lille and Mazamet, and 
it was known to be in a prosperous condition owing 
to the exceptional ability of its owner and presi- 
dent. M. Victor Limerel was a great worker in 
his way, which was that of all originators. He 
took in all sides of an affair at a glance, as if he 
had studied it thoroughly, and he judged men in 
the same way, gave definite orders and never 
changed his mind. He possessed powers of com- 



THE BARRIER 75 

bination, foresight, and memory which would 
have taxed the brains of half a dozen ordinary 
men, but he endured the strain, thanks to his 
capacity for throwing aside all business cares on 
leaving his office or committee-room and never 
allowing them to encroach on his hours of leisure. 

In doing this he became absolutely common- 
place; talking fluently but without a spark of 
originality, his conversation being made up of 
echoes from the newspapers and the current talk 
of the day. 

When any statement of his was contradicted 
he reaffirmed it with greater empha^ when it was 
for his interest to do so, and certain signs, such as' 
a protruding of the jaw, the throbbing vebu in 
his temples, and the nervous movements of the 
fingers, betrayed the man's relentless will, his pride 
in his unvarying success, and his experience of the 
weakness of human nature. 

This curtness in expressing his opinions was 
confined, however, to subjects where his personal 
interests were involved. On other questions, 
and those the deepest and highest, he showed a 
surprising readiness in yielding to the feeblest 
opposition, and claimed credit for this as evidence 
of a broad tolerance. 

Many of his relations with the political world 
were explicable only through this facility for 
compromise. 

It was generally understood that he was loftily 
indifferent where principles were concerned, jeal- 
ous and tenacious only on personal questions. 

M. Limerel had always refused to present him- 



76 THE BARRIER 

self as a political candidate, but he passed for a 
Conservative, no one knew precisely why. His 
opponents, however, recognised the conservatism 
of the man of wealth rather than that of the man 
of convictions. 

His wife had formal orders to cultivate social 
relations in all parties, and these she obeyed im- 
plicitly, receiving people of every shade of opinion 
who might be able to serve her husband in his twin 
ambitions of being appointed an officer of the 
Legion of Honour and a manager of the Suez 
Canal. 

He had married a Mile. Elsa Pommeau, many 
years younger than himself, the daughter of a 
banker, who had brought him a large fortune, 
with the additional dowry of a wealth of blonde 
hair, superb shoulders, and a smile always the 
same, which came at her bidding. 

She was neither an ill-meaning woman nor a 
nonentity, but twenty years of an unvarjring social 
round had filled her with a set of conventional 
ideas, prejudices, and tastes which belonged to her 
world rather than to herself. She repeated 
scandal without a grain of malice ; and, without co- 
quetry, resorted to every device known to art to 
preserve the remnants of her youth and fresh- 
ness in order that she might still figure among 
the vanguard of pretty women. Yet subject as 
she was to her husband and to the world, some- 
thing of her real self— of the woman she might 
have been, enthusiastic, kind, and tender — still 
survived within her. When alone or with her 
husband and son^ she allowed herself at times to 



THE BARRIER 77 

think and feel in accordance with her true nature 
and early principles, expressing herself in vague 
phrases such as: '^You are going too far. I was 
not brought up with such ideas as that. Do as 
you please, but I cannot share your opinions.^' 
This, however, was the extent of her courage. 
Sometimes, at long intervals, she strayed into a 
church and knelt with bowed head, sighing pro- 
foundly, forming good resolutions for the future, 
and commending to heaven all who were dear to 
her, especially her son. Those who saw her in 
this attitude pronounced her exceedingly devout, 
and if she chanced to hear the expression she did 
not attempt to deny it. 

Such was the companion whose fortune and 
conduct, whose conversation and thoughts, were 
completely under M. LimerePs control. She lived 
in dread of his harsh voice, his self-confidence, his 
arguments, his mockery, and his bursts of anger 
when she attempted to resist him; she regarded 
him as a tyrant and yet she loved him. She was 
not always convinced by his arguments, but since 
he conmianded must she not obey and thus pre- 
serve their domestic pea«e at any price? 

Nothing had ever cost her so dear as the com- 
plete ignoring of her natural authority on the part 
of her husband in his plans and negotiations for 
F^licien's marriage. 

M. Limerel regarded this transaction as one of 
the highest importance, and accordingly as his ex- 
clusive affair. This marriage was to facilitate that 
worldly advancement which he called a family 
concern; that is, one designed for the benefit of 



78 THE BARRIER 

the head of the family. Among the young girls 
whose fathers were men of influence he had sin- 
gled out Mile. Tourette and had said to F61icien: 

''There is a charming girll" 

He might as well have said: 

''There is a girl whose father is influential! 
Baron Tourette is a power: marry his daughter 
and you will be doing me a service. She is a 
charming girl besides." 

He was not nwstaken on these two points, but 
upon another which he had not taken into consid- 
eration. 

Mile. Tourette was a pretty girl, rich and well 
connected, but F^licien refused outright to have 
his choice dictated to him. He begged his 
parents to delay further steps until he had made 
up his mind to be married. 

"That is mere shyness," M. Limerel replied. 
"The fear of not pleasing. I know you, my dear 
boy. But let me introduce you to her. I feel 
fairly sure what her answer will be, and perfectly 
sure of yours when once you have seen her. She 
is bewitching." 

F^licien had yielded finally for the sake of peace, 
merely saying, "Very well, I will go with you." 
Accordingly the preliminaries, discreetly con- 
ducted between M. Limerel and the Baroness 
Tourette, had led to the following agreement. 
"Marguerite shall know nothing about it," said 
her mother, "but I will take her with me to 
the SaJon. You remember that huge canvas by 
Wambez, of a group of Sorbonne professors show- 
ing off their robes? Well, at three o'clock pre- 



THE BARRIER 79 

cisely we will be in front of that picture, and you 
can meet us there by chance. Unless I am mis- 
taken, the portraits of those old gentlemen will 
serve as a becoming background to Marguerite. 
The dear child will have an opportunity for a 
little chat with your son, and that is all we can 
do. We can insure then: meeting but not their 
liking each other." 

"Certainly not." 

'^You will be there then?" 

''At three precisely, Madame, and the result 
is easily foreseen." 

This was the interview from which M. Victor 
Limerel had this moment returned. He had 
made a point of going alone with F61icien. ''You 
would spoil ever3rthing, my dear," he had said to 
his wife. "Your flushed cheeks and the very tone 
of your voice would betray your feelings. Leave 
it all to me and when I bring him back a con- 
queror, you will not regret it." He had long ago 
settled that there was no place for her in his 
diplomatic triumphs. He was now awaiting her 
with an impatience he could with difficulty control. 
At last he heard a light step on the stairs, and a 
Dfioment later the handsome Mme. Limerel threw 
open the door and as she entered cried breathlessly : 
"Well, what about my son?" This natural cry 
came from so full a heart that M. Limerel was 
actually moved by it and almost forgot to re- 
proach his wife for keeping him waiting, but he 
exclaimed, nevertheless, with a gesture of impa- 
tience: "The interview was a failure — ^an utter 
failure! And all owing to you." 



80 TItE BARRIER 

''I have no doubt of that. As long as I live, 
every failure will be owing to me. To be sure, I 
was not there and you were, but that does not 
matter. Tell me ever3rthing. Where did you 
meet them? Oh, my poor boy, how he must be 
suffering! Was it that little chit who did not 
care for him? '' 

^^Not at all, ma cMrey it was he — ^he alone. 
How could you fancy such a thing? That is just 
like you. A disappointment quite upsets your 
judgment." 

''But tell me, tell me everything. You see I 
cannot wait. Where did you meet?" 

''We were standing, F61icien and I, with our 
backs to that great Sorbonne picture in the long 
gaJleiy. I was gazing with deep interest at a marine 
view of a stormy sea, and explaining to F61icien 
the reasons for my admiration, which he did not 
share, but all the time I was watching for the 
Tourettes out of the comer of my eye. At a few 
minutes past three I caught sight of them coming 
up the grand stairway. They were about to pass 
us when I stepped forward. 'My dear Limerel, 
is that you?' exclaimed Tourette. 'What a sur- 
prise!*" 

"How did he appear?" 

"He was out of breath but as cordial as ever, 
friendly even. I am sure that he favours the 
match. I am used to reading men, and his 
manner was unmistakable." 

' ' And how was the mother? " 

"Very dignified, as usual. But she had come, 
and that in spite of a headache." 



THE BARRIER 81 

"And Mile. Marguerite? What of her?'' 

"She was the prettiest Parisienne there, in a 
frame or out. A perfect little Greuze in a mous- 
quetaire hat. She has a clever mouth, a re- 
trousse nose, and sparkling eyes under long, droop- 
ing lids. But you have seen her. She evidently 
knew, but showed no signs of embarrassment. 
Quite at her ease, lively and amusing. She led the 
way with F61icien, sajdng: 'I am quite at home 
at the Salon, Monsieur. Let us come this way.' 
We followed, tacitly agreeing to fall a little way 
behind. She talked vivaciously, raising her 
pretty arm to point thin^ out to him. F61icien 
hardly spoke. We iHbught all was going naturally, 
but we could say nothing about it yet." And 
M. Limerel proceeded to describe the interview, 
dwelling chiefly on the r61e played by the per- 
sonage who interested him most, namely : himself, 
his diplomacy and tact, his repartees. 

Mme. Limerel's ardent interest, the mute in- 
terrogation of her parted lips, impressed even 
him, the least indulgent of men towards what he 
styled motherly sentiment. This mother, with 
y^ daijj: riiigs of anxiety around her eyes, crouching 
in the easy-chair by the fireside in a posture of 
suspense, with no concern for her fresh toilette, 
with her veil rolled back unbecomingly and her 
hat awry, was no longer the handsome, expres- 
sionless, blonde Mme. Limerel whom he was wont 
- to dominate, but a being all quivering life and 
primitive passion. 

"Yes'," she exclaimed, "I see it all — ^your meet- 
ing, your walk through the gallery together. I 



82 THE BARRIER 

hear your words and their replies, but the end — 
the end?" 

'^Well, when I took leave of the Baron and 
Baroness Tourette in the lower hall, nearly an 
hour later, and left them lingering awhile, for 
form's sake, in the sculpture-gallery, I immedi- 
ately-^ asked F61icien: 'What do you think of 
hejr?' His reply, which is stamped indelibly on 
n^^ brain, was: 'She is charming, father, for some 
^e else, but I am not marrying. I warned you, 
., ^''ou know.' 'And your reasons, if you please?' 
A* I inquired. 'I might give you any number, but 
ff one will be enough to prevent any further at- 
■^ tempts like this of to-day: I have resolved to 
marry no one save my cousin Marie.'" 

"He said that!" 

"He said just that — 'No one save my cousin 
Marie.' 'Your cousin?' I replied; 'I will not per- 
mit it, do you hear?' 'My mind is made up,' he 
said, and upon that we came out. My dear, I 
was furious. I said ever3rthing that could be 
said. I pointed out the folly of marrjdng a girl 
who could not bring him even four hundred thou- 
sand francs, and who had no impbrtant connec- 
tions, except in a circle which no longer counts for 
anything. I pointed out that when a young man 
wishes to make his way in the diplomatic world 
he cannot afiford to begin by a blunder. I ex- 
plained that there are certain obligations for 
people of our fortune, that in the upper bour- 
geoisie a man's choice is as strictly limited as that 
of a prince, unless he means to abdicate — ^and 
F61icien is abdicating. He will never 'arrive'! 



THE BARRIER 83 

It is like setting out on his career armed with a 
prayer-book instead of a copy of Macchiavelli. I 
told him all this and much besides. He merely 
replied with more sentimental speeches, telling 
me how lovely Marie was/' 

''So she is." 

"And Mile. Tourette? Is she not lovely, too?'' 

''But Marie has such elevation of mind, such 
distinction of nature!" 

"Define distinction, will you? The little TourA 
ette girl is a thousand times more 'chic,' and that ^, 
is distinction nowadays, ma chere. And even if "^S 
she hasn't already those wonderful qualities that 
F61icien is dreaming of, she is very young, and 
he can form her to suit his own ideal. Is not a 
husband the real educator of a wife of twenty? 
Can he not refine her to any extent?" 

"We are an example of the contrary, mon ami. 
1 was under twenty when you married me." 

"I beg of you — ^I am in no mood for jest- 
ing.' 

"Nor I, I assure you. Nor of serious contra- 
diction either. I am merely ofifering a plea on be- 
half of that poor boy who is not here to defend 
himself. Why do you look at me so sternly?" 

M. Limerel rose, tossing down an ivory paper- 
knife with which he had been slaahing the air 
while he spoke, and began pacing slowly back 
and forth between window Ld door, vdth his 
arms folded and his eyes fixed steadily upon his 
wife, who had risen, t<i, and waB evidently begin- 
ning to waver. 

"Because it is you who are really responsible," 



84 THE BARRIER 

he replied. ''You have encouraged F61icien in all 
these foolish tastes which are opposed to mine." 

''We are discussing his niarriage, Victor." 

"We are discussing his whole future, which he is 
about to compromise. If you had not filled him 
with a lot of idealistic notions which make me un- 
easy about him — ^yes, yes, I repeat it, uneasy — 
these notions of excessive piety, for instance " 

"What do you call excessive?" 

"Whatever stands in one's way, parbleuJ^ 

''Alas! hehaBgivenupallreligiourobservances, 
much to my regret indeed." 

"I am not concerned with that. What I com- 
plain of is that he is essentially romantic and 
mystical." 

' ' Poor boy ! He has a little spark of enthusiasm 
in his nature, which he inherits, perhaps, from me." 

"Not at all, my dear. He is, as I say, a mystic. 
I insist upon it that he lives and breathes in an 
unreal atmosphere. He has a taste for pious 
romance, and he imagines Marie to be a sort of 
Madonna or archangel." 

"He loves her." 

"I call it morbid nonsense and ignorance of the 
world, or pure folly, whichever you like." 

Mme. Limerel, weary of contending and fully 
aware of the uselessness of such discussions, re- | 
sumed her society voice, and in her sweetest and ^ 
most amiable tones replied: "I do not wish to dis- 
please you, mon ami. What do you wish me to 
do?" 

"What do I wish? That you should speak to 
your son and dissuade him from this mad idea. 



THE BARRIER 85 

He will listen to you better than he does to me. 
You have influence over him." 

''I shall make him suffer all the more. But 
since you wish it I will try my best. Where did 
he go when he left you?'' 

''To the Foreign Office, where he had an ap- 
pointment. He will soon be back. I leave you. 
He will come expecting to find me here, and will 
find you instead." 

''Are you not afraid of his having an ally?" 

"Whom do you mean? My sister-in-law? I 
wrote to her about it in England and have had 
an answer." 

"Which you never showed me." 

"True, true! But it was an excellent reply. 
Oh, she will make no attempt to catch my son! 
Her principles are even stricter than yours. She 
is exLperiting, but at the same time rea^uring, 
for I feel secure against any manceuvring on her 
part. It is only Marie whom I fear, with her ar- 
M nature under that air of reserVe. She and 
F61icien have always been on such terms of inti- 
macy that I never foresaw this danger. Of course 
she camiot help loving him." 

"Yes, with a cousinly affection." 

"Oh, I know those cousinly affections which 
are nothing more or less than love in disguise. 
Marie has eyes and intelligence. She is aware 
that my son is a charming and advantageous parti; 
that he has a fortune and will go far. It is against 
her that you will have to work. You must simply 
tell him that you regard such a marriage as im- 
possible and that it would pain you deeply. 



86 THE BARRIER 

There! I hear the outside door close; it must be 
Fflicien. Tell him you have not seen me yet. Do 
not turn pale like that! It is nonsense! When 
will you be a real woman — a woman of strong 
will?'' 

Mme. Limerel kept her eyes fixed upon the door- 
way through which her husband disappeared, 
saying to herself, *'When will you be a real man, 
with a man's heart?" At this decisive moment 
she was terrified to find herself alone and forced 
to act against her natural instincts, and indeed 
against her sense of right and justice. 

As F^licien entered and bent his eyes upon her 
with a look of tender inquiry, she threw her whole 
diplomacy into assuming an attitude of ea^ uncon- 
sciousness. Slowly she began removing her jew- 
elled hat-pins and lajdng her flower-trimmed hat 
upon the table before her while she carefully 
smoothed a stray lock of hair with the tips of her 
fingers. 
. ''Has father not come in yet?" he inquired. 

''Not yet, dearest. You have just returned 
from the Salon — ^from seeing — ? In short, how 
were you pleased?" 

Fflicien had a clear, direct glance, and true 
French eyes, by turns clever, appealing, mocking, 
and coaxing, but with too many vagrant thoughts 
passing through them. His pale, youthful coun- 
tenance, with close-cut brown hair, buddmg mous- 
tache, and a prominent chin like his father's, gave 
him the air of a student, while a certain elegance 
in the carriage of his head and in the supple out- 
lines of his figure recalled the portrait of some 



THE BARRIER 87 

young Florentine, noble of the Renaissance clad 
in a silken doublet, with a jewelled poniard in his 
belt. 

He embraced his mother without repljdng, and 
after a moment's pause said: 

'^Come, sit down here beside me, won^t you? 
I need your help." 

*'Ah, my child! when you are once men we 
mothers are of so little use. You think I can help 
you still? It does me good to hear that." 

For answer he took her hand and led her to a 
sofa, where he seated himself beside her, and bent 
forward with a look of trouble in his eyes. 

She drew herself up and listened intently, with 
a serious expression on her pretty, doll-like face. 
At certain words he spoke her eyelids drooped as 
if pained by what he said, at other moments she 
turned white, with a faint murmur, ''It is im- 
possible. That is an illusion. It is too late." 
It was evident that she suffered at seeing him 
suffer, and at not daring to console him. 

''I am very unhappy," he began. 

"What is it, my child?" 

"There are only three of us at home and you 
and my father do not agree." 

"Indeed we do! Why do you say that?" 

"Well, he and I disagree on a very serious sub- 
ject, and I do not know whether you will side 
with me or with him." 

"Tell me, is it about this marriage? If Baron 
Tourette's daughter does not please you, your 
father and I will look out for some other young 
girl." 



88 THE BARRIER 

"I have already found that other." 

'' Heavens ! Who is she? " 

'^One who is very dear to us." 

' ' What ! Your cousin Marie? " 

''Yes, Marie. You know how fond she has 
always been of you." 

''That is true." 

"And you have always taken her part. What 
better daughter could you ask for? She will not 
have to learn to love you. If you will only help 
me, mother!" 

"No, you go too fast, Fflicien. It is out of the 
question." 

"Why out of the question?" and he looked her 
straight in the eyes, while she tried to evade his 
glances as she murmured: 

"Your career, your fortune, require a totally 
different marriage." 

"Poor mamma! You have evidently seen my 
father. You are merely echoing him." 

She did not venture to deny it again, and he 
withdraw from her a little as she said : 

"I don't know whether your father will change 
his mind later. Possibly he may, but it is safest 
not to approach him at first." 

"You wish me to wait? You, too?" 

"Yes, my dear child." 

"Then I will, but not without being sure that 
Marie cares for me. That I must know, and 
within the hour. I am going at once to ask her." 

"You have not spoken to her yet?" 

"No. I wished to wait until I had passed my 
e:xaminations and felt myself a man." 



THE BARRIER 89 

''And yet you consented to go to this rendez- 
vous of your father's? " 

''Yes, m order to have one more argument on 
my side, to be able to say to him: I have seen 
them both and I love only Marie/' 

"But it is quite impossible, my son. A mar- 
riage cannot be arranged like this, on the spur of 
the moment." 

''I have loved her for years." 

"Without telling your parents, F61icien?" 

"Since you are both against me, I must speak 
for myself. I shall go to her at once — ^but will she 
consent? " 

Mme. Limerel shook her blonde head and smiled 
in spite of her trouble. "How can you doubt it? 
A girl who knows you 1 " 

"No, you do not quite understand — ^there are 
certain things — ^Marie is very superior to others." 

"And what of you, Fflicien?" cried his mother, 
throwing her arms around her son's neck and 
drawing down to her the sensitive face drawn 
and vibrating with emotion. "I am weak," she 
added, kissing him. "I ought not to let you see 
that I forgive you. I do not approve, and I fully 
agree with your father. You cannot imagme how 
upset I am by all this. At the very moment, too, 
when our fondest wish for you was about to be real- 
ised, you ruin everything. We have always lived 
so united and happy until now." 

"Yes, but only by avoiding all vital questions. 
I fear, dearest mother, that our peace was the re- 
sult of a weak compromise." 

"Alas! could not things last as they were?" 



90 THE BARRIER 

"You see, dear, that they could not/' 
"And what am I to say to your father?" 
"Tell him that I have gone to see Marie," and 
as he spoke F^licien arose and left his mother 
seated alone on the sofa, weeping silently, but all 
unconscious of the deeper causes of her tears. 

The distance was short between the hdtel of 
the Victor Limerels and the apartment occu- 
pied by Marie and her mother in the Avenue 
d' Antin, F61icien walked rapidly, pondering upon 
what he should say to his cousin, what her replies 
would be, and building up a score of possible 
romances. He recalled the whole past which 
bound him to Marie, and saw her once more a 
child on the beach at St. Lunaire, where the two 
families had been in the habit of spending their 
summers, or in the Tuileries gardens which he used 
to cross daily on his way to and from his college, 
and where he often lingered to watch his Uttle 
cousin skipping rope, or running to and fro among 
the other girls, as lithe and frolicsome as a young 
kid. He saw her in short skirts at that uncertain 
age when her smile began to change, as a ripen- 
ing fruit takes on a tinge of colour — ^Marie, whose 
proud glance held one aloof from her realm of vir- 
ginal thoughts and whom he loved even then with 
a timid, jealous afifection, feeling her to be dififer- 
ent from the other girls whom he flirted with at 
balls — this cousin of his who was clever with- 
out diplomas, this very pretty girl who remained 
simple, this Parisienne who had bloomed in a 
chosen circle, and who, as he knew, looked with 
a shade of youthful severity on the mixed social 



THE BARRIER 91 

relations of his father's family — ^that a girl of 
twenty, so gifted, could remain long without be- 
ing loved, sought, and won was incredible. He 
had suffered therefore during this six weeks' 
absence, this English journey of which he knew so 
little. Whom had she met over there? What 
new influences had coloured her girlish image of 
an ideal hero? This vague fear was one of the 
secret causes which had decided him to seek Marie 
at once. 

Mme. Limerel lived on the third floor of a house 
in the Avenue d'Antin. On being informed by the 
maid that madame was out, but that mademoiselle 
was at home, F^cien became so agitated that he 
could barely stammer: *'Do not announce me. 
I will go and find her." 

''Mademoiselle is in the dining-room, writing," 
the maid said, and as she opened the door Marie 
sprang up and came to meet her cousin. Drop- 
ping him a deep curtsey, she exclaimed laughingly, 
''Good-morning, Excellency. To what do I owe 
this honour? Sit down, Fflicien," she added. 
"You see I have taken possession once more of 
my favourite nook for writing, where I have a 
better light and less noise than on the avenue 
side." 

And as she spoke she reseated herself at a table 
in the large bay-window, overlooking a court-yard 
with low walls, over which a glimpse could be 
caught of the tree-tops of a garden on the Fau- 
bourg St. Honor6. 

"I have hardly caught sight of you since you 
came back from England, Marie." 



92 THE BARRIER 

'Trae. That so-called family party of ours 
the other evening was not precisely an intimate 
gathering, and mamma's dozens of special friends 
were very monopolising." 

'^It wUl be the same at our house; we shall be 
almost by ourselves at dinner, but in the evening 
a hundred people are coming and there is to be 
music. B^des, people always try to monopolise 
you! When it is not a nice old lady, it is a man, 
young or old, who wants to sit beside you because 
he enjoys talking to a lovely girl, and who accounts 
for it by sajring, 'Oh, yes! she is so clever and 
cultivated!' All of which is quite true.'' 

"Come, F61icien, spare me. We girls have to 
pass our examinations, too, you know, and they 
are not always the most amusing ones. Well, 
here you are, a man with a career before you — ^the 
career of all others! They must have been de- 
lighted at home." 

"Yes, but it was a delight that did not last." 

"Do you know any that do?" 

"Not yet." 

And as their eyes met for a moment, Marie 
blushed and bit her lips, realising that she had 
heedlessly said the wrong thing and brought the 
conversation to a dangerous point. She began 
nervously toying with the letter which lay before 
her. But Marie Limerel was one of those per- 
fectly frank and courageous natures which hesi- 
tate only at the start, and having once chosen 
their path go straight towards the duty before 
them. Her delicate profile stood out like an 
antique cameo against the light behind her, and 



THE BARRIER 93 

as she spoke she involuntarily lifted her hand^ as 
if taking a vow. 

^'If you have anything to say to me, speak at 
once while we are alone, and let there be only 
truth between us,'* she said. 

'^You will answer me with perfect sincerity?'' 

''Indeed I will." 

''Marie, my cousin Marie, do you love me a 
little?" 

''I love you very much, F61icien, and always 
have from childhood." 

''Yes, I know and I believe you, but that is not 
what I am asking for now. Do you love me 
enough to be my mfe? For my part I have long 
since passed from a cousinly affection for you to 
a deep and ardent love. I have compared you 
with other girls and found you superior to them 
all — ^I can truly say it — ^you so good, so loyal, 
who pass through this stupid society in which 
we all find ourselves, without resembling it in 
your look, your speech, or your heart. You so 
young " 

"So young! Oh, F61icien! I have sometimes 
asked myself why you were no longer yoimg." 

"You have thought of me then? Even if it 
were only to blame me, I thank you for giving me 
a place in your thoughts. Had you guessed? 
Did you know?" 

"Yes, I sometimes thought so. But listen, I 
could love with my whole heart only one who 
gave me a love such as I have dreamed of." 

"Ardent, enthusiastic, reverent, Marie? Mine 
is all these." 



94 THE BARRIER 

"I wish for more, far more." 

"Pure then? You are questioning me as to 
my past? You reproach me with infidelities to 
you — which have been few, I assure you." 

"You are mistaken. I might perhaps pardon 
all this to one who asked for pardon." 

"Perhaps, you say?" 

"Yes, for I am not yet called upon to make^that 
sacrifice. I do not know. But what I do ask for 
above all, is that there should be no thought that 
kept us apart; that we should have biit' one soul 
between us." 

"Ah! We have come to it at last. I have been 
fearing, Marie, that you would ask me to be like 
you." 

"Have we the same faith? Are you a Chris- 
tian still? Understand me: I know that you con- 
tinue to go to mass and would accompany your 
wife there. I see that through family tradition 
you remain respectful to Catholic ideas, ceremo- 
nies, and customs. But to be outwardly respectful, 
mon ami, is not enough, it is not living by faith as I 
wish to live. It pains me to speak to you like this. 
I am being hard to myself. But it would be such a 
disillusion if I found that my husband could not 
pray with me — ^was not inspired in all his acts 
by that faith which is truly all of me. You think 
me pretty and I am touched by that. But other 
girls are pretty, too. Why have you chosen me? 
What you love in me, I truly believe, is this inner 
faith, F61icien." 

"That may be, Marie; there has always been a 
mystery about you." 



THE BARRIER 95 

"No, only a sheltered youth, A will which 
would be weak of itself, but has been fortified 
from childhood and directed upward with admir- 
able tenderness. I see so many wrecks about me I 
I feel that with most men I should be imperilling 
my soul and my happiness. I should like— but 
do not laugh at me." 

"On the contrary. Speak and let me look 
into the paradise of your soul. I promise you to 
answer truly. What would you like?" 

"That my marriage should have about it some- 
thing of the eternal. I believe those to be poor 
marriages which are not formed to last forever. 
I think that the family one founds should have 
echoes before and after. I should wish to be the 
mother of a saintly race." 

"You deserve to be, Marie. But that other, 
where will you find him? I know a few men who 
think like you and who live as you say — ^they 
are far better than I, but they do not love you. 
They might pass near you without knowing all 
you are worth. What nobler work, moreover, 
than to bring back to God the man you have 
chosen? " 

"To-day that can no longer be done, F61icien. 
I should have the whole world to struggle against. 
I could not bring it to pass." 

"And yet, little Marie, Christian virgins have 
married pagans." 

"They were forced to in those days. Besides, 
those pagans had never known the true life." 

"And we?" 

"The pagans of to-day are Christians blighted. 



96 THE BARRIER 

I am sure of it. They will not revive in pure 
water like a drooping spray of lilac." 

"But in tears they may," and he tried to laugh. 

"Yes, perhaps in tears," and as she spoke the 
tears sprang to his eyes. He did not attempt to 
hide them, but bent his head and gazed at Marie 
as if she were already far away. And not being 
able to endure the sorrowful love expressed in his 
gaze, Marie looked back at him for a moment, 
then closed her eyes. Pity was growing within her. 

"My poor F61icienl how I hurt you!" she cried. 

"No, not you, not you, Marie. It is not your 
fault. You make me sufifer, but only by showing 
me the gulf between us. The fault is in those who 
are not like you. I am trying to defend myself, 
you see, because I love you. The words you speak 
I feel to be true; you are doubtless right, but I no 
longer feel sure. That is the hardest thing I have 
to own to you. I do not often think about the 
faith that once was mine, lest I should find that 
there is no vestige of it left." 

"Do not say that, F61icien. You are surely 
mistaken." 

"I hope it may be so " 

^'Oh, yes I — do not answer me at once. You 
are not sure; take time to examine yourself." 

"You did think better of me then, Marie. You 
did not believe that I had so changed for the 
worse. I bless you for suffering, too." 

"See! you are using the words of our faith. 
You say, I bless you." 

"That is what is left to me, alas! Words, sounds, 
regrets." 



THE BARRIER 97 

''Cling to these regrets; they are the first steps 
on the return path. Do not say any longer that 
you do not believe. Do not accuse yourself; 
study yourself." 

She had bent forward and taken F6licien's 
hand. She consoled him, she pitied him with 
her whole young, tender soul which saw him weep 
for love. 

"Yes, I will try," he answered. ''But can 
you who have never changed, understand? I 
admire this religion which I once loved, but I 
no longer turn to it. I say, 'It is beautiful,' 
but do not adhere to its precepts. My soul has 
become inert, my will no longer obeys my intel- 
ligence. I regret not believmg but make no efifort 
to throw off this burden of doubt. There is a 
force within me which is dead or sleeping, I do not 
know which. And it is on the solution of this 
problem that you make my fate depend!" 

"How can it be so? You who went to a college 
directed by Fathers. You — ^brought up by them ! " 

"Yes, but not taught. That is a different 
matter. They did what they could, or nearly so. 
If their work had not been destroyed I might 
have been the man you coifld love, Marie. Let 
us not seek out who caused this ruin. Evidently 
it waa L I in the first pl&ce, but-we might dii 
cover those whom I refuse to name. That is an 
abyss I dread to cross." 

Marie rose with an imploring gesture, saying: 

"Do not answer any farther now. I can be sure 
that you will tell me tlie whole truth. Take time 
to study yourself and you will find some delusions 



98 /THE BARRIER 

melt away Which blind you ss to your genuine 
beliefs. Go F61icien, I have hope." 

"Dear Marie, what an angel you arel" 

"And wnile you are thinking, I will pray." He 
stood dry*eyed before her now, as pale as she, but 
not daring to look in the face he loved, lest he 
should no longer be master of himself when once 
he met these eyes so full of compassion. He 
gazed downwards at her long, slender hands as 
he said: 

"Marie, we are the victims of the time. I am 
like this society which is perishing amidst its 
pleasures, while you are among the chosen few 
reserved for a resurrection. I have never seen 
as I do to-night what it is that has ceased to live 
within me. I will do as you bid. I will try to 
find myself amidst these ruins." 

"If you see the evil, renounce it." 

"Ah, Marie 1 how many see the evil but have 
neither the will nor the grace to be cured." 

"Not the grace, you mean." 

"You cannot comprehend such poverty of soul, 
you the ardent, the devoted." 

"If my love could bind you to the faith again! 
But no, it is not enough; strength must come 
from above. I will pray for it." 

"Tell me, Marie," he said imploringly, "when 
shall we see each other again? You are so dear, 
so despairingly dear to me." 

"We shall meet at my aunt^s to-morrow, but I 
beg you to say nothing to me there. I beg you to 
avoid speaking of this. Let days and days pass. 
Do not condemn us too soon." 



THE BARRIER 99 

''?7s/ — ah, how good you are I" 

"Adieu, F61icien/' 

'^Pray for us both, Marie." And so they 
clasped hands and parted, that rapid pressure of 
the fingers expressing the mutual loyalty of their 
young souls. 

F^licien had no desire to return home at once. 
He was too agitated to meet his father's eyes, his 
mind was too bitterly stirred. All his youth 
rose up before him, all his past years brought 
their testimony, saying to him: *'What do you 
believe? How can you be a man of faith? 
During your whole childhood you were left to the 
care of servants for whom you were merely a^ 
small, crying creature whom they were forced 
to tend at night in the absence of your parents. 
What poor guaxdian angels! For one who joined 
your hSmds and taught you to lisp a prayer, how 
many hurried you to bed without a thought of 
heaven, such as a child needs, to be wholly a child? 
What study have you ever made of religion? 
During your school days the thought of gradua- 
tion usiuped the place of all else. In college a 
moderate place was allotted to religious instruc- 
tion, sufficient, doubtless, when parents bear 
their part or show its influence in their lives. 
There were some zealous priests who tried to 
pour something of the divine into these minds 
absorbed with the world, steeped in its tumult, 
assailed by all the influences of the streets, the 
newspapers, the theatre, books, and their own pas- 
sionate natures, and finding in their pursuits of 
pleasure reason enough for doubt and denial. 






100 THE BARRIER 

These priests, moved by Christian charity and wise 
in the knowledge which fortifies the soul, won some 
minds to the truth forever, others merely to an 
outward respect which could not endure. You 
were among these last! How soon the teachings of 
the Church were obscured by all you heard 
uttered or implied at home or in society — ^talk 
which your mother half disapproved, but to 
which ^e listened with a courteous strdle, while 
your father constantly affirmed that an honest 
man could dispense with religion and philosophy, 
without a thought of the young soul beside him 
hearing all this and seeing how those about him 
lived their lives with no regard for the creed they 
repeated. Thus your youth was passed!" 

And as his retrospect continued, F6licien recalled 
one unhappy date in particular. It was while he 
was pursuing his law studies that a sense of his 
utter unworthiness had led him to abstain from 
the Easter communion, of which his mother had 
partaken alone. On their return home no ex- 
planation had followed, only a timid remon- 
strance on her part, ignored by his father. 

And now Marie had brought all this past to 
life again and forced him to ask himself: *^What 
do you still believe? What proinise can you 
make to this pure soul? What sympathy can 
there be between her and you? — ^Descend deeper 
into your conscience, suffer and perhaps in the in- 
most depths you may find buried the germ of 
some force winch is still alive." 

After wandering through the streets and ave- 
nues of the Etoile quarter until the clock struck 






THE BARRIER 101 

eight, F61icien finally turned homeward. His 
mother, on hearing the vestibule door open, 
stepped forward to meet him. 

*'How long you have been gone!" she cried. 
"I have said nothing to your father. He is up- 
stairs." 

*^Do not say anything to him now," F61icien 
answered. 

^'I cannot for a moment believe that she has 
refused youl" 

"Do not question me, mother; let me reflect in 
silence. I am in need of rest and thought before 
giving the answer I have promised." 

*'Ahl so much the better, since the decision 
rests with you." 

''Yes — " he began, then stopped with a sigh and 
passed his hand gently over his mother's brow, 
which he had never before seen so seamed with 
care, sa3dng: 

''Do not be unhappy, mother — ^the time has not 
come yet. All I can say is that the happiness or 
misery of my life lies in the word I shall have 
to say to her, and you can do nothing — ^noth- 
ing." And in a lower tone he added, "Nothing 
nowl" 

On the morning of Tuesday, the twenty-second 
of June, Mme. Victor Limerel received a note from 
her sister-in-law, to which she sent the following 
reply: 

"Certainly, dear Madeleine, I shall be charmed 
to see your Englishman, He will meet a number 



102 THE BARRIER 

of people here, for our friends all wish to celebrate 
my son's success with us. And you will notice that 
the date is well chosen, since we are on the eve of 
St. Felix. 

"Why do you not bring M. Brejmolds to dinner, 
so that he may get to know us a little before the 
other guests arrive, and so find a few conversar 
tional islands in this ocean of strangers? And 
besides, without him we shall be thirteen at table. 

"Your sister and friend, 

"POMMBAU ViCTOB LjMEREL. 

"P. S. Fflicien, to whom I have just read this 
note, jeers at my superstition. But I insist; bring 
me the fourteenth. " 

On the very day of his departure from Redhall, 
Reginald had embarked for Ostend. He had 
pa^ed the first week or two of his voluntary exile 
with friends in Belgium. Then, armed with let- 
ters of introduction, he had taken the train for 
Paris, drawn thither by a definite and deliberate 
purpose. "I will see them at home," he thought. 
"I will study these Catholics in their fives and 
works. I will attend their gatherings and hear 
them speak; and for this purpose I will go to 
France where religion is the oldest, the most cre- 
ative, the most apostolic, and the most bitterly 
opposed. I shall not frequent theatres or galleries, 
since I am bound on this one quest. I do not 
care about those other things, they can come later." 
For this reason, and one other, he had rejected the 
idea which had occurred to him more than once. 



THE BARRIER 103 

of paying a vMt to the two French ladies who had 
bein witnesses of his recent experiences and guests 
at his home. Some words he had himself spoken 
also restrained him. He had said to his Uttle 
friend Dorothy, speaking of Marie: "I shall not 
see her again." It was childish, no doubt, but 
these words seemed binding to his tenacious na- 
ture, so little used to reversing his decisions, even 
in trifling matters. Nevertheless, one evening 
as he was returning to his hotel somewhat lonely 
and sad, he caught sight of the lighted windows 
of Mme. LimereFs apartment, and a youthful long- 
ing for one more gUmpse of pretty Marie Limerel 
carried the day. 

Although Marie and her mother had welcomed 
him with a cordial friendliness authorised by the 
weeks spent at Westgate, he had appeared at 
first cold and formal. They found him as dis- 
tant as on the first evening when Lady Brey- 
nolds had presented her son to the two French 
ladies. It was evident that the sort of confidence 
which had sprung up on English soil between 
Reginald and Marie had not crossed the Channel, 
and it hardly seemed as if the correct and silent 
young man who replied to their questions only in 
monosyllables could ever have walked and talked 
with Marie in the park at home. 

Mme. Limerel, who was equally surprised at this 
perfunctory conversation broken by frequent 
pauses, suddenly asked: 

"You would, perhaps, like to make a few ac- 
quaintances in Paris, Monsieur?" 

"Thank you, no; I do not care to do so." 



104 THE BARRIER 

"It is sight-seeing then that interests you?" 

He had laughed as he answered: "Not espe- 
cially." But they had caught an expression in his 
eyes revealing that here was a soul on its guard. 

"I do not mean^ you understand, that you 
should climb into one of those vans on the Place 
de rOp6ra which carry your compatriots all over 
Paris. But I thought that coming here for the 
first time you might have laid out some plan of 
study or amusement, and knowing you I feel quite 
sure it would be study." 

"Yes, some friends of mine in Belgium have 
given me a few letters of introduction." And he 
said no more on the subject of the use he was 
making of his time in Paris. 

Naturally no allusion was made to the discus- 
sions which had led to Reginald's sudden de- 
parture from Redhall, and which had caused so 
much talk in the little Westgate circle. Mme. 
Limerel inquired for Sir George and Lady Brey- 
nolds as if quite unaware of the scenes that had 
passed, even before her own eyes. 

Reginald was touched by this reserve, and 
thou^ he gave no sign, he said within hin^f: 
"These are thoroughly well-bred people, since 
they appear the same at home in Parish they did 
in England." 

For in his inmost thoughts he had entertained 
a suspicion that English surroundings had acted 
as a check upon a certain exuberance and frivol- 
ity of mind and speech which he believed to be 
French characteristics. 

Accordingly when Mme. Limerel had suggested 



THE BARRIER 105 

his accompanying them to her sister-in-law's on 
the next evening but one, he accepted with an 
eagerness which proved that he had been charmed 
as well as surprised by his visit. 

'^I do not propose your coming for the society 
you will meet there," she added, ^' since you have 
admitted your unsociableness " 

'^And besides, it is not precisely our society," 
interpolated Marie. 

'^ — ^but on account of the music, which will be 
excellent." 

Thus it was that on the evening of the twenty- 
second, on the stroke of eight, Reginald Breynolds 
was being presented to the guests of the Victor 
Limerels. 

These included first a young Pommeau couple, 
relatives of Mme. Limerel's, the husband, a partner 
in the automobile firm of Mohl & Gerq, being 
commonly known as 'Tommeau des automo- 
biles," as in Rome they speak of Pietro dei Mas- 
simi. Next came an old Councillor of State who 
dined impartially in all sets and at all seasons, 
invariably telling one good story after the Bur- 
gundy to pay h^ scot tnd end the dinner jovial- 
ly, then, ^ter a cigar in the smoking-room where 
he told a spiicier story to the men, he departed 
with a sensed! duty Accomplished/ TherT were 
also the banker Ploute and his wife. He was 
the manager of several big companies, very 
clever, and wealth incarnate; while she was wealth 
incarnate and very dull. She was also exceedingly 
blonde, and her sloping shoulders were more laden 
with diamonds than those of any other woman in 



106 THE BARRIER 

good society. Diplomacy was represented by a 
young secretary of legation, who had widied to 
pay the new attache the compliment of dining 
with him elsewhere than at a ministerial func- 
tion; he was a youth of mild and modest speech, 
with a collection of terrible anecdotes against his 
neighbour. Then came M, de Semoville, whose 
wife had declined at the eleventh hour; an ama- 
teur sculptor who attributed his lack of success 
in the artistic worid exclusively to his birth and 
station, and made no secret of his envy of his 
untitled rivals. Finally there were the cousins 
Bourguillifere, a thick-set, sturdy couple — the 
wife with something of the imposing mien of a 
Roman matron — ^who ostensibly spent the entire 
year in the country, absorbed in the management 
of a great estate from which Madame derived 
yearly profits of twenty-five thousand francs on 
her dairy alone. Renowned as they were for 
their rural, agricultural, equine, and bovine ex- 
periences, this couple were to be met with in Paris 
whenever they could snatch a moment from their 
fields and flocks, in other words, incessantly. 

This small, intimate dinner, as Mme. Limerel 
called it, was actually made up of professional 
diners-out who were in the habit of meeting reg- 
ularly at the same table. It was noticeable for 
the silent, rapid ease of the service, and for the 
complete absence of originality in the conversa- 
tion. At first the great mill-owner took the lead 
— ^as though he were presiding at a board meeting 
— evidently under the impression that he was 
stimulating discussion and a free interchange 



1 



THE BARRIER 107 

of ideas. He did in fact draw out a variety of ^ 

contradictory opinions on a vast number of topics 
grave and gay, but these themes were soon ex- 
hausted, as the company in general knew very 
little about them, and cared still less. 

Regular habitu63 of society recognise this fact, 
but Reginald, who had lived in Various countries 
but never in France, secretly admired the versa- 
tality of these French people, their vivacity, the 
appositeness of an occasional repartee, which may 
have served before but which reappears from time 
to time under a slight disguise. He was amused, 
in short, by all he heard, having sufficient sense of 
humour to appreciate the happy hits. He was 
greatly entertained by M. de Semoville's experir 
ences at the art auctions, of which he was a regular 
devotee; as well as by the councillor's piquant 
anecdotes, one of which was pronounced by the 
knowing M. Ponuneau to be ^'fresh from the mint." 

As he was communicating his impressions, 
mostly in English, to Marie, who sat beside him, he 
suddenly became aware that he was the person 
expected to speak next, and say something entirely 
new. For it is a law on such occasions, frequently 
verified, that a guest who may be supposed to 
have something worth saying, is not called upon 
at once, but has his cue given him after the first 
courses are over. 

The habitu63 naturally wish, before giving their 
attention to new-comers, to display their own 
little talents, to gossip awhile, and to make them- 
selves agreeable to their partners. The saddle 
of mutton had accordingly been served when M. 



108 THE BARRIER 

Pommeau "of the automobiles/* in repl3diig to 
some question of his neighbour's, remarked audi- 
bly: *'0h, yes, we have Monsieur Breynolds 
here, who knows India thoroughly." 

'"That is true!" exclaimed M. Limerel, in the 
tones of a whipper-in sounding the rally. "Per- 
fectly! He hsa held a command in the most 
savage regions." 

' ^ Where was it, may I ask, Monsieiu* Brejmolds? " 
said the fair Mme. Ploute, whose complexion had 
cost several millions and had won for her the heart 
of M. Ploute, and who in speaking moved only her 
pretty, rose-tinted lips, while thTlines of her face 
^mained immovable^lid expressionless. 

Reginald, embarrassed at being obliged to speak 
French before the whole table, merely replied: 

"Sixteenth Rajput regiment, stationed at 
Manipur in Assam." 

This cast a momentary chill over the company, 
while every one was trying to locate Assam. The 
first to recover was the secretary of legation, who 
said: "Oh, yes, Assam, a province of British 
India on the north-east frontier of China, very 
savage in fact " 

"Because I visited India on my wedding-trip," 
resumed Mme. Ploute. "Do you think the Hin- 
doo women so amazingly pretty. Monsieur?" 

After that, the trigger having been pulled, each 
took his turn at questioning Reginald. He de- 
fended himself as well as he was able, replying 
at first only in the briefest phrases. 

Somej)ne alluded to Sisowath and its dancers. 
Mme. Ploute, who was more used to being looked at 



THE BARRIER 109 

than listened to, keenly enjoyed the new sensa- 
tion of leading the conversation, and turning her 
fixed and sterilised smile upon Reginald, who held 
himself at attention as if on parade, she poured 
forth a torrent of amiable nonsense to which he 
replied gravely, occasionally pausing for a mo- 
ment's reflection. 

Mme. Ploute thought him a charming young 
man, and all eyes were turned upon him as he de- 
scribed the uniform of the Sixteenth Rajput, 
known as the Lucknow Regiment, which con- 
sisted of a red tunic with white facings, and the 
white Wolseley helmet with a pugaree or muslin 
scarf twisted around the crown, or else of a khaki 
suit of knickerbockers, with puttees bound about 
the legs. 

In imagination all pictured Reginald attired 
in this fashion, either in scarlet or buff, and look- 
ing extremely handsome. He was requested to 
give a few traits of manners peculiar to the 
Mishmi tribes among whom he had lived, and 
gradually the halo that belongs to a hero, a 
softened, tender glow, began to envelop him 
I in the eyes of Mme. Pommeau, who was unhap- 

pily married, and of Mme. Ploute, who had once 
dreamed of being adored by some splendid 
warrior. Mme. Victor Limerel reflected grate- 
fully that her dinner was going off well, while 
Reginald, finding that his lYench was eadly un- 
derstood, hesitated less and grew more animated. 

"Paris must strike you drolly after the Mishmis," 
, broke in the banker Ploute, who was a little bored 
» by India. 



no THE BARRIER 

"What have you seen in Paris during the week 
you have spent here?" inquired M. Limerel, and 
several women's voices chimed in: "Yes, yes, 
tell us what you have seen in Paris, Monsieur 
Breynolds." 

"Other Mishmis," murmured Fflicien under 
his breath. 

All heads were now turned towards the English- 
man, and the maWe d'hotd and his aides who were 
passing the salad regarded with disfavour this 
guest who obstructed the service. 

"I?" returned Reginald quietly, "I have been 
questioning priests and directors of institutions 
in regard to the charities of Paris. I have visited 
one of the last religious communities which has 
been allowed to remain here, and the Training 
School for Cripples of the Brothers of St. Jean 
de Dieu. That seems to me a work surpassing 
human powers." 

"You were not doing this for pleasure?" 
queried Mme. Ploute anxiously. "You doubt- 
less have a mission from your government." 

"No, I am not on any mission. I am doing it 
of my own accord." 

"How curious! Don't you think, ckh-e amie^^ 
said the handsome Mme. Ploute, aiddressing the 
pretty Mme. Pommeap, "that it is very odd? 
Monsieur Breynolds hatf not at all the air " 

"Of what, rruxchkreV^ 

"Why— of that!" 

"Then," resumed M. Limerel, "you must be 
rewriting Maxime Du Camp's book for your own 
benefit." 



THE BARRIER 111 

"Precisely," said Reginald. "I have discovered 
that the charities of Paris are a worid in them- 
selves, and an admirable one." 

"You must have — ^ah — excellent ones at home." 

"Doubtless we have prosperous institutions, if 
you like, and yet there is a personal force here 
which strikes me greatly." 

There was a chorus of approbation, followed 
by an immediate abandonment of the handsome 
Indian officer. The men smiled at their neigh- 
bours as if to say: "There, didn't I warn you?" 
The ladies, the younger ones especially, smiled 
back. "You were right, and yet he promised to 
be interesting. He started off well." 

Mme. Limerel decided that there was no time to 
lose in getting off of charities and effecting some 
sort of digression. 

Marie noticed that F^licien did not share the 
ironical attitude of M. Pommeau, M. de Semoville, 
the secretary, or his father. 

Dinner over, as she was returning to the salon 
on Reginald's arm, M. Bourguillifere, who had not 
uttered a word at table, approached them : 

"Mr. Breynolds," he said, "allow me to tell you 
that the opinions you have expressed are precisely 
my own. There is no place in the world where the 
original human material is nobler than with us," 
and he bowed. Reginald was at once seized upon 
by the diplomat, who had been silently preparing 
a series of questions to propound to him, while 
F61icien joined Marie where she was standing 
relieved against a splendid background of Gobelins 
tapestry which draped one end of the salon. 



i 



112 THE BARRIER 

"I cannot speak of myself," he began, "since 
I have promised, but I have the right to ask what 
this Englishman is doing here, who seems to know 
you and your mother so well. What has he come ' ^ 
for? For you, perhaps?" 

''No," die answered, "he has a much better 
object." 

"To write a book? What stuff 1" 

"No, to seek the truth." 

"You cannot arouse my sympathy in him. I 
distrust thfese researches, for I suspect %. personal 
object." 

"How hard you are upon me, and how itejust 
to him!" 

"Never fear! I will undertake the education 
of your Hindoo. I will soon cool his enthusiasm 
by showing him what a reactionary salon is like." 

"Why should ypu try to belittle us in his eyes, 
Fflicien?" 

But he was already gone, in response to a sig- 
nal from his father, who was conducting the men 
into the smoking-room. On their return they 
found the salons already invaded by a swarm of 
evening guests whom an interminable line of au- 
tomobiles had deposited at the door. 

Obliged to welcome this throng, F^licien did 
not find himself free again until the conc^ was, 
half over, when he sought out Reginald, wiiom he 
found standing in a doorway leading m;)^^4 
small blue salon into the larger one, gazing with 
folded arms and observant eyes at the half- 
circle of women, most of them young and in full 
ball dress, who were clustered around the piano. 



THE BARRIER 113 

whHe the men were drawn up in serried ranks 
behind them. 
I As F61icien approached, he sought to divine the 
* thoughts of this Englishman, transported into a 
society so new to him, but failing to perceive the 
slightest change of expression cross his face, de- 
cided that Reginald Brejmolds was a typical 
specimen of the phlegmatic Anglo-Saxon race. 

In his morbid frame of mind this sight aroused 
his jealousy. Without being distinctly conscious 
of his ownieelings, he experienced a vague dread 
of the comparison which might be dra^n in a 
mind^ear to him, between this stranger and him- 
self, and he feared lest Reginald Bre3molds should 
carry away from this party an image of Marie 
Limerel more bewitching than ever in the refined 
elegance of its setting. He therefore resolved to 
dissipate all illusions in regard at least to the set- 
ting. In order to reach Reginald's side, he was 
obliged to make a detour through the firat salon, 
which was almost deserted, and while he was on his 
way the Englishman caught snatches of a tete-a-tete 
which was going on near him, to an accompani- 
ment of the tuning of violins and 'cellos, between 
M. Pdmmeau, a black-headed young man with 
flashingL, white teeth, and a very young woman 
with mk face of a Perugino angel and the figure 
of a R»aissance statue draped in rose-tinted 
satiiLllley were conversing in discreet under- 
tones, as if used to such manoeuvres, with their 
heads close together, but with their faces turned 
towards the orchestra as if intent on what was 
passing before them. 



114 THE BARRIER 

Re: I should like to know what is going on in 
that little heart. 

She: It is nothing so strange as you fancy. 

He: The less reason for refusing to confess it to 
me. 

She: A droll confessor. 

He: rWhy so? 

She: You would be too indulgent. 

He: Towards myself, yes— but not towards oth- 
ers. 

She: Naturally, but I prefer to keep my own 
secrets. 

He: They are very naughty secrets, then? 

She: You think me in need of repentance? 

He: Repentance, no; you are too young for 
that. 

She: Be still,^Impertinent, some one might hear 
you. 

He: What matter if they do? 

She: Oh, there are principles here 

He: None to speak of, only fragments. Will 
you have some? 

She: Not this evening, thank you. 

And with this they drifted apart. 

"Who is that lady?" Reginald asked of Fflicien 
as he came up. 

At that moment a rustic strain was being played 
on the 'cello, an artless little melody upon which, 
as it grew graver, the piano began to weave the 
motif of a prayer. 

"She is a 'flirt' of Monsieur Pommeau's, whose 
husband, a fine, agreeable, intelligent fellow, 
adores her. Seel he is that tall, apod-looking 



THE BARRIER 115 

man over there, who is watching her with anxious 
eyes. But they have very little money, and she 
likes Pommeau's presents, which proves the truth 
of Councillor Blumentd's epigram at dinner." 

''Which one?" 

"It's true, he indulged in several, but in such 
low tones that one half of the table could only see 
the other half laugh. Well, what he said was: 
'Rarer than a love-marriage is a love-flirtation; 
they are mostly de (xmvenance. ^ " 

The Englislunan saw nothing droll in this re- 
maric and did not even sketch a smile. The pas- 
torale was over now and after a burst of applause 
the women hastened to resume the buzz of convex^ 
sation so unfortunately interrupted by the music. 

As the 'cellist, with his instrument in one hand 
and his bow in the other, stood bowing to Mme. 
Limerel, who was congratulating him, an old gen- 
tleman passed by muttering: "What a bore! was 
it not, Madame?" 

"You see that bald young man, with a mono- 
cle, beside the piano?" pursued F61icien. "That 
is a very distinguished anarchist whom they are 
thinking of for a professorship at the College de 
France, or the Polytechnic. He can have his 
choice, of course. There are no claims nowadays 
that have a chance beside those of a demolishes 
My father invited him because he is a power to 
be conciliated, perhaps on my account, [certainly 
on his own." 

"Ah, indeed!" 

"I shall not offer to introduce you, because in 
your chM^cter of Englishman you will immedi- 



116 THE BARRIER 

ately be called upon to give in your adherence to 
the principle of universal brotherhood." 

"Not really!" 

' ' Certainly, Monsieur. You have no idea of the 
tjrranny of these diploma'd fools. Whether you 
agree with a word he utters or not, he leaves 
you convinced of your admiring allegiance. But I 
can guess what your real opinions are on that 
question. When all the nations of Europe have 
agreed to be brothers, the last to hold out his 
hand in this universal grasp will be the English- 
man." 

This time Reginald smiled and said: 

''Very true that, very truel" 

"You see that lady of uncertain age, with an 
equine profile, in the front row — ^not so far along — 
there you are! She is a very great lady indeed 
who entertains so much and so graciously that 
she considers herself exempt from the obligation 
of ever returning visits." 

"I see no harm in that if people keep on going 
to her." 

"That elderly man beside her is quite ruined, 
but is clever enough to live in luxury on nothing 
a year, and is greatly admired by the ladies." 

"Who is that young lady in black tulle who has 
been talking so long with those two men? " 

"She must be begging for one of her charities." 

"You are joking! I have been watching her 
for twenty minutes by the clock, while she smiled 
and argued, and cajoled." 

"No, I assure you she is one of the women whom 
gossip spares. It is the Countess de Soret, who 



THE BARRIER 117 

has been a widow for ten years, and has con- 
tinued to go into society in order to help on her 
good causes. She has never paraded her grief, 
but has been all virtue, sorrow, and brave en- 
durance. No stranger could quite understand her. 
That is the Parisian type of saint, and is a very 
superior article, believe me, which cannot be pro- 
duced elsewhere." 

Reginald's polite .gesture of doubt seemed to 
say: Let us admit it, as I do not wish to contra- 
dict you, though I do not, myself, believe in that 
type. 

M. Victor Limerel, who was circulating among 
his guests with a smile which counteracted his 
formidable chin, caught sight of Reginald and his 
son: ''Ah, here you are. Monsieur 1" he exclaimed. 
"I suppose my son is naming some of our guests to 
you, and I hope you are beginning to feel at home 
among us." 

''I am praising them all impartially," said 
F61icien, as his father pursued his way, and at the 
same moment he remarked that Reginald's glance 
was fixed on Marie. "In short," he exclaimed, 
with increased bitterness, ''there is no bond of 
unity among these people except that of being in 
the same salon. You may look in vain for con- 
victions of any kind. Most of them have given 
up having any because they found them trouble- 
some. They have no fears for anything but their 
pleasures, and when those are threatened they 
call in the fire-brigade." 

"You have one, then?" queried Reginald, with 
an ironical gleam in his eyes. 



118 THE BARRIER 

"Everything is convention here," F61icien went 
on. ''Society is like Chinese lacquer, made up of 
successive coats of vamish concealing very poor 
wood. There is plenty of wit among these peo- 
ple, and skill in the minor arts — ^by which I mean 
finance, mechanics, politics, and literature — ^but no 
common sense, and their opinions are like reeds 
in the wind." 

"They lack religious principle," said Reginald. 

"There is little enough of that left, my dear 
Sir." 

"I beg your pardon, but I have met with it 
since I came to Paris," Reginald replied with 
quiet assurance. 

At this moment most of the ladies rose, and 
there was a general movement in the direction of 
the supper-tables, which were set upon a raised 
platform, at one end of the long salon, where the 
band was usually stationed on the occasion of a 
ball. Marie was among the last to enter; she had 
with her a girl of her own age, smaller than herself 
but equally pretty except for the inner glow which 
irradiated Marie's face. She was evidently look- 
ing for some one. With the same simplicity as 
if it had been a small family gathering she was 
trying to find F^licien, and to reassure him with 
a glance which said: 

"Take courage! Hope! Amidst this crowd of 
pleasure-seekers, I am thinking only of you, and 
of the ordeal I have imposed on you." He caught 
her eyes and understood her. At the same moment 
she noticed the man beside him and remembered 
that he, too, had confided his inmost thoughts to 



THE BARRIER 119 

her. His eyes aJso were fixed upon her and she 
changed colour; then the proud head, so grace- 
fully poised on the slender throat, was lost in the 
throng, and as she vanished Reginald took ad- 
vantage of the opportunity to take his leave. 

'^I hope to see you again," said F6licien. "We 
two are so utterly unlike that we may learn some- 
thing from one another. Where are you staying? 
I shall drop in to call." 

"At Power's Hotel," replied Reginald. 

"Avenue d'Antin? That is odd!" 

"Why so? I am not the first officer of my regi- 
ment who has put up there." 

"No, of course not. Good-bye, we shall meet 
soon." 

Reginald, having no inkling of Felicien's jeal- 
ous suspicions, merely carried away the impres- 
sion that he had to do with a very light-minded, 
ill-balanced young fellow. 

As F61icien re-entered the salon the company 
were resuming their seats to listen to a troupe of 
Russian singers. 

He began now to judge himself severely and to 
realise in a flash that in sneering at his father's 
guests he had yielded to a base impulse, inspired 
by an unworthy jealousy of Marie, and his dis- 
tress of mind was heightened by this thought. 
When, at the close of the evening, Mme. Limerel 
and Marie withdrew, Felicien was not there to take 
leave of them. He feared to meet those pure, 
womanly eyes which so easily penetrate the turbid 
current of a man's mind. 



in 1 

It was five o^clock in the afternoon when Regi- 
nald Breynolds's cab stopped before the door 
of a long, low building in the Grenelle quarter 
standing in the midst of factories and waste lots 
surrounded by high palings. He entered a deep 
garden at the rear of which stood two large houses 
connected by a glazed gallery. 

A woman sat knitting beneath the lindens in this 
quiet spot, and the silence that reigned there told 
more plainly than guide-posts that it was well out- 
side the Paris limits. This was the Calvary 
Asylum, where poor women suffering from in- 
curable cancerous maladies are received, nursed, 
and tenderly cared for. 

Reginald ascended the steps leading to the 
glazed gaUery, with a sense of such invincible 
repugnance as caused him to stammer and half 
forget his French when a lady, dressed in mourn- 
ing and wearing a black cap, advanced to meet 
him and inquired his errand. 

While addressing this lady, who was one of the 
ward nurses, and offering her his letter of intro- 
duction, he experienced the sensation of draw- 
ing in with every breath the germs of the terrible 
disease floating in the atmosphere around him. 
But her replies to his questions affected him as 

120 



THE BARRIER 121 

powerfully as these feelings of instinctive repul- 
sion, though in a far different way. 

She was a woman of about forty, whose bright 
face was beaming with goodness ahd moral 
health. She spoke well and concisely, like a 
Parisian, and one who has little time to waste on 
trifles, though ready to bestow it freely upon all 
who need her help. 

Her maternal tenderness towards her patients 
could be divined in the very motions of her hands, 
which seemed to be listening as well as her up- 
turned head, while she clasped and unclasped them 
compassionately. How small she looked beside 
Reginald's tall figure, and yet how calm she ap- 
peared in comparison with this man who found 
himself powerless to maintain that impassibility 
and self-control which had been the habit of a 
lifetime ! 

''How many patients have you?" he asked her. 

''Three wards, each holding twenty-one beds." 

"And are these beds always full?" 

"Always. Death makes the only vacancies, 
aad inde^ we need more room; it b so hard to 
refuse any one." 

"Are they all poor women whom you receive?" 

"All working women of Paris, yes." 

"And they pay nothing?" 

"Nothing, Monsieur. We live upon the charity 
of Paris, which is very great." 

"Then you — ^the nurses — ^are not remunerated? " 

"No, on the contrary, Monsieur, we pay our 
own board. In order not to be a burden, you 
understand." 



122 THE BARRIER 

Reginald went on. 

^'Then you live here constantly? You pass 
your life amidst these surroundings?" 

''Certainly/^ she answered. "There are several 
of us who live here always with our patients. 
But we have other ladies who come in from out- 
side to aid us. All widows like ourselves." 

^ ^ Yes, I understand. The greatest sorrow minis- 
tering to the greatest anguish. That is very noble. 
Will you allow me to see one of your wards?" 

She glanced at her watch and said: 

"It is nearly time for the nurses to make their 
rounds. But you can glance in for a few mo- 
ments." 

And preceding him, she rapidly led the way 
through the glazed gallery into a passage con- 
nected with the building on the left. Then, all at 
once, she slackened her steps, and as they ap- 
proached the scene of suffering without respite, 
she paused and said: 

"You can look through this glass door. Our 
friends from outside, the ladies who come to help 
us, have just gone in." 

He saw two rows of very white beds, with a 
wide space of waxed floor between them. White 
curtains were drawn back and wound about the 
posts of each bed, and a small black crucifix was 
suspended at the foot. The outline of motion- 
less forms was visible beneath the coverlets, and 
pale faces rested upon each pillow. No sound 
was audible, but floods of light poured in on all 
sides. A few women, clad in the nurse's uniform, 
were kneeling motionless beside the beds. 



THE BARRIER 123 

"They are praying?" murmured Reginald. 

''Yes, they are praying that their care may be 
acceptable and their hands very tender." 

" — ^And that their courage may not fail?" 

''Yes, and for that, too," answered his guide; 
"you can look in once tnore. You will see 
that all the beds are turned to face the chapel, so 
that our sick may look through the glazed par- 
tition towards the altar. That is then: chief con- 
solation." 

The kneeling women rose and bent over the 
sufferers. Reginald heard faint moans and saw 
hands holding lint and unrolling bandages. On a 
bed near him he saw an old woman whose profile 
was turned to the light, revealing the ravages of 
the terrible malady. The volunteer nurse who was 
ministering to her touched the poor, disfigured 
face with a tenderness, a pity, which seemed to 
draw her soul to her finger-tips — ^with the touch, 
timid but sure, of one who wills, who implores, 
and who loves. 

As the pure youthful profile of the nurse bent 
close above the ravaged cheek of the sick woman, 
Reginald drew back with a start of surprise and 
horror. 

"It is not possible!" he cried. "^Who is that 
lady?" 

"A lady from the great world — one of those of 
whom I told you." 

"I recognise her; it is the Comtesse de Soret, 
is it not?" 

"It is," assented his guide. 

"A strange country!" he said to himself, as he 



124 THE BARRIER 

took his departure, his soul stirred to its depths. 
''Such deeck as these are the real foundations of 
Paris, which sustain the whole edifice. An in- 
comprehensible country until we discover who are 
its perpetual redeemers. These sublime women! 
and so simple with it all I What is it that carries 
them to such victorious heights? Nothing exists 
alone. From what underlying power does this 
force proceed, surpassmg mere hiunan pity?^' 
And he recalled the windows looking towards the 
altar, and saw again the eyes and hands of the 
Comtesse de Soret. 

On the following Thursday he ordered dinner 
at half-past six, a proceeding which excited the 
mirth of the landlord, and the exasperation of 
the chef. But he pursued his way unmindful of 
the laughter and the grumbling which are the in- 
evitable accompaiiiment of our daUy doings. 

At seven he proceeded to the nearest Metro- 
politan station on the Champs-Elys6es, having 
received minute instructions as to changing cars at 
the l^oile station and again at the Place d'ltalie, 
thence by tramway to Bic6tre. This was the sort 
of journey he liked, with no companion to whom 
he must talk. He watched the Paris houses 
gradually diminishing in height, and the suburbs 
stretching out interminably, with their big fac- 
tories and waste spaces, the streets assuming a 
redder hue as tiles replaced slates; the huge ware- 
houses stored with iron, coal, oil, and lumber, and 
interspersed with little gardens stuck like tiny 
green feathers between the brick walls, all re- 
callmg the suburbs of many another city. 



THE BARRIER 125 

Beyond the fortifications, fields appeared where 
the grass had air enough to live, and where the 
roadsides were bordered by lines of waggons, un- 
harnessed or without wheels, forming nomad 
villages where thousands of hmnan beings were 
encamped. The tramway carried him out still 
further to where these movable huts were replaced 
again by decent houses, inhabited by the poorer 
labourers and superannuated workmen. On 
alighting at the spot indicated in his directions, 
Reginald inquired of a stout, bare-headed matron 
whom he met, the way to the church. 

"With that accent you must have come a long 
way,'* she said. "But as to the church, that is 
another matter. You are right upon it, across the 
road there.'* 

Having crossed the road, Reginald found him- 
self in front of a rough-cast stone wall, surmounted 
by a green trellis; on the right was a rusty iron 
door over which was the inscription, "figlise 
paroissiale." 

Several women were entering and Reginald, 
passing in with them, crossed a narrow courtyard 
on one side of which stood the Church of the 
Kremlin, a long brick building with a sheet-iron 
roof, resembling a bowling alley. 

It was apparently a temporary structure, and 
one of the women whom he questioned replied: 
"Oh, yes, it was only opened in 1907. There was 
a smaller one here formerly, but for a long time 
we had no church. This is a poor quarter where 
people merely lodge, just perch for the night, you 
know, like a flock of sparrows, and are off to 



126 THE BARRIER 

work by daybreak. But we were glad enough to 
have a church of our own once more. They put 
their seals on the little one — ^the one we had before, 
ah, ces cochons! '' 

Reginald had already entered the hall decorated 
with stacks of tri-colored flags, when he heard 
a parting shot from the woman behind him: 
"They must be well scared to make them think of 
us poor people ces cochonsV And as she spoke 
she dipped her fingers in the holy water. Half- 
way across the church Reginald met a tall young 
priest, with deep-set black eyes which looked out 
from cavernous hollows like those of a death's 
head, yet the eyes were alive and full of kindness. 

Seeing that he was a stranger, the priest said to 
him: "They come in such crowds that you cannot 
stand here without taking some one's place, but if 
you will come this way. Monsieur, I will show you 
where you can see very well." And so saying he 
led him to a vacant space in the choir where stood 
a chair and a prie-dieu, doubtless the abb6's own. 

The building was now thronged, the women on 
the gospel side and the men on the epistle side, 
like human furrows — ^poor clods of the same suf- 
fering humanity, yet with souls full of good-will, 
waiting for the Sower to scatter the seed, ready to 
receive it and let it germinate within them. 
Reginald stood gazing down upon them from 
the slight elevation of the choir, whence he could 
see mothers with babies cradled in the nest formed 
by their arm and bosom, aged veterans wearing 
the triumphant moustaches of the Empire, push- 
ing before them curly-headed, neatly clad urchins 



THE BARRIER 127 

of three or four, young workmen trooping in, gaunt 
and lean, and fQnging themselves into a chair with- 
out kneeling, ignorant of the courtesies of the 
place. Children were huddled around the com- 
munion-table, crying and whimpering as though 
in the nursery. On the steps of the altar and filling 
the choir sat a group of young men with musicJ 
instruments in their hands or on their knees. A 
missionary mounted the pulpit, whereupon the 
young abb6 with the deep-set eyes, who was sitting 
beside Reginald, bent over him and said: 

"That is the band from the Grand Montrouge 
which comes all the way over here to lend beauty 
to our services. See, they have hurried! It is a 
long distance, and they came the moment they 
could get away from the shops and factories.^' A 
half-dozen of the musicians had risen and sud- 
denly a fanfare burst forth, spirited, true, and 
with a martial sound that thrilled the blood. 
When the flourish was over the Englishman re- 
marked by way of applause : 

"They have good lungs for Frenchmen!" 

"Thank you, yes. We have a few such left," 
responded the abb6. 

The missionary had begun his discourse; with- 
out any graces of oratory he explained simply and 
clearly to his ignorant auditors certain points of 
doctrine; and in addressing these toil-worn work- 
men, whose naturally quick wits were stimulated 
rather than shocked by the humour of the fau- 
bourgs, he did not disdain to mingle an occasional 
pleasantry with words that appealed to their 
hearts. From time to time another missionary 



128 THE BARRIER 

rose and offered some argument to be refuted by 
him. Reginald listened with attention^ but gazed 
still more attentively, now at the audience, now 
at the priest who for weeks had been speaking daily 
to these gropmg souls who were drawn together 
by a mysterious attraction, like a flock of birds — 
linnets, blackbirds, sparrows, and tiny finches with 
outstretched bills — ^fluttering about the charmer 
who whistles to them through a folded ivy-leaf. 

''The man of whatever social class," pondered 
Reginald, "who gives up family life for the sake 
of ministering to these poor creatures must be an 
ardent and devoted soul, a sort of maiden-knight 
who has given himself wholly to the service of hu- 
manity. He is the real friend of the indifferent, 
often hostile faubourg. What self-sacrifice! He 
voluntarily becomes one of them, bringing to them 
the riches of his faith and seeking to make them 
sharers in his strength and hope " 

As he mused thus, Reginald became more deeply 
absorbed in studying the faces of these Paris work- 
ingmen, and trying to understand them. 

One tall young fellow, with dreamy eyes, es- 
pecially attracted him. He felt, as he looked at 
him, as if he were becoming the friend of this 
unknown who seemed a stranger even to those 
about him, and who showed plainly by the doubt, 
astonishment, and emotion contending in his face 
that he was listening for the first time to words 
which reveal to the human soul its wretchedness 
and its nobility. 

''Where do you come from, poor boy?" he 
thought. "He is at the age when the mere flut- 



THE BARRIER 129 

tering of a woman's skirt as she passes, makes the 
heart beat faster. All the life around him draws 
him away from the church, seizes him and holds 
him — ^how has he escaped to come here? He 
entered alone, he looked at no one as he took his 
seat between a half-tipsy vagabond, evidently 
one of the submerged, and that huge hulking 
fellow, a sort of good-natured animal, as ready to 
serve his Maker as the ox in the stall. But the 
lad! that passionate, ardent youth I what power 
is it that has moved him more strongly than 
pleasure? How beautiful is the emotion in his 
facel St. John, the disciple nearest to Christ's 
heart, had eyes like his — eyes which guided by 
love look deeply into the invisible.'* 

The violins and comets began to play again. 
"Is it still the Montrouge band?" he asked his 
guide. "Yes," replied the sbh6. 

"And who is that youth in the fourth row? I 
have been watching him a long time. He has 
grasped everything; he is half Ul with emotion. 
One can see that he has depth of soul." 

"Such feeling is far from uncommon among the 
youth of our faubourgs," replied the priest after 
glancing at the young man, and Reginald saw that 
his shadowy eyes were moist. "Yes, it is often 
so, but his pallor comes from himger, too. That 
is ten o'clock striking now." 

"And has he eaten nothing since noon?" Regi- 
nald asked. 

"No. Many of them come here fasting. They 
have not had time to go home first, you see. 
They come directly from the workshops to the 



130 THE BARRIER 

church. I could easily point them out by their 
pale cheeks/' 

"What good work you are domg among them I 
This parish is new, is it not?" 

"Yes, and the church is newer still. Thirteen 
have been opened since the separation. Look, 
your friend is leaving." 

The pale young workingman had risen list- 
lessly, and stretched his long arms. He had a 
smile on his lips as he gazed around on the crowd 
in which he was being swept along; and yet, 
surely his brow and his heart were still bathed in 
floods of divine love. 

Calls, laughter, and good-nights were exchanged 
amid the throng of men and women who now 
congregated in the shadow of the doorway. The 
evening air refreshed the faces weary from pro- 
longed attention, and all opened theu* lungs to 
breathe it in more fully. 

"Look here, Lerouxl" cried one, "aren't you 
famished? I have had no dinner yet." 

"Neither have I." 

"Come along with me. I have got some 
cherries." 

"That's not enough." 

' ' Vve got some meat, too. Let us share it. We 
are old chums, you know. Where are you living 
now? I never see you any more." 

"I live down this way," and the two drifted 
off together. 

The night was already dark when Reginald 
found himself alone on the sidewalk, the tram- 
car making a solitary island of light in the sur- 



THE BARRIER 131 

rounding obscurity. Having alighted at the 
ifitoile station, he started on foot for his hotel in 
the Avenue d'Antin. 

His mind was filled with that diffused and ir- 
radiating glow left within us by great thoughts 
and inspiring spectacles. The beauty of the 
night scenery of Paris, which he knew so well, 
appeared to him as something new. He en- 
joyed the sensation of being alone amidst the 
throng of vehicles and foot-passengers, with the 
emotions of the last few hours still possessing 
him. 

He felt thankful that he had come to this city, 
and he found himself replying in spirit to the 
arguments and sarcasms he had so often listened 
to among his comrades, both in London and in 
India, upon the corrupting influences of Paris. 
''But you have not seen everything," he was 
saying. "There is a higher life already existing 
in this life, and those who are not privileged to 
see it judge the world incompletely." 

The joy of youth surged through his veins as 
though he were drinking mountain-air, while the 
exercise of walking made his blood tingle after the 
stifling atmosphere of the cars and the crowded 
church. 

He left the Champs Elys^es behind him reluc- 
tantly, but as he turned into the Avenue d'Antin 
he chose the left-hand side-walk, so that on looking 
up he could see the lighted windows of a certain 
third-floor apartment. He paused beneath them. 
Behind one of these windows a young girl was still 
awake, the only French girl he had ever really 



132 THE BARRIER 

known. Was she not more than that to him? 
Yes, she was the one woman to whom in an hour 
of deep mental distress he had confided his inmost 
thoughts and feelings. 

She had never recalled, in the remotest way, 
their interview in the woods of Redhall ; she had 
shown herself worthy of the confidence he had 
reposed in her. A feeling of tenderness, vejy pure 
and warm, filled his heart. It was but for a mo- 
ment and he instantly reproached himself for 
allowing such thoughts to interfere with the 
purpose upon which his whole soul was now con- 
centrated. His respect for the aim he had set 
himself and his instincts as a man of action alike 
prompted him to keep to the path upon which he 
had entered. He passed his hand across his brow, 
as if to dispel such sweet dreams. A sentence 
from the Psalms crossed his memory, for he had 
been brought up in close familiarity with the 
Scriptures: "Confirm a right spirit within me." 
Yes, that was what he needed; to be confirmed 
in the right spirit — ^the royal spirit. And he turned 
his thoughts once more to the sight he had wit- 
nessed that evening in the poor church of the 
Kremlin. 

On the following Saturday, the twenty-sixth 
of June, F6licien Limerel was returning by the 
Champs Elys6es from a visit to one of his dip- 
lomatic chiefs, who lived near the Bois de 
Boulogne. His reception had been a flattering 
one; the conversation had turned chiefly upon 
the subject of his future, and had been filled 
with those amiable predictions which do not 



THE BARRIER 133 

commit the prophet to any special efforts for 
bringing them to pass. 

*'You are the first among a brilliant set of 
candidates/' his chief had remarked. *'The 
minister to whom I was speaking this morning 
of your success said — ^this is strictly between us, 
you understand — 'A name without a flaw and the 
manners of a gentleman. That is what we need 
in a democracy. The old noblesse are valuable 
to us, no doubt, but are not to be relied on, as they 
do not owe everything to us. This young man 
has impressed me most favourably.' " 

Sugared words, such as had served for many 
othersl But F61icien was still young and he 
relished them. 

Shortly after leaving the house, however, his 
thoughts turned into other channels and re- 
echoed other words, whose power far surpassed 
that of these idle flatteries. Pangs of the heart 
trembling for its threatened love came first, but 
more torturing still was the self-questioning that 
followed: 

"Ought I to condemn myself? — ^to decree my 
own rm^?-and doubly, toofSice in renouncing 
Marie I renounce at the same time the faith of 
my fathers? Marie put me on my honour and I 
gave her my promise. But what cruelty! To 
force me to a self-examination before which, after 
all, most men, older and wiser than myself, would 
recoil. How many live on without ever drawing 
up the account of their moral defeats or their re- 
ligious backslidingsl How many never think of 
these things till they are on their death-beds, and 



^^ 



134 THE BARRIER 

some not even then I Why must I weigh myself 
before the hour and confess that I am found want- 
ing? And if I condemn mjrself I shall meet with no 
pardon. Marie trasts to my sincerity — ^and that 
is the worst of all. Not to be able to deceive 1 
Not to know how! No, Marie, I will not lie to 
you. But why has this question arisen so imperi- 
ously between us? It is since her return from 
London and the arrival of this Englishman. '\ 
What does he want here? I suspect him of being 
in love with her, too. Ah, if I find him guilty of 
that trick I Of playing the bigot and feigning 
piety in order to ingratiate himself with Marie 
and my aunt I What do they know about him, 
after all? He and I are being silently compared, 
I am sure of it. If he is not an actual rival, he is 
the ideal hero, the model that I am far from being. 
He is beginning to irritate me, that fellow, and 
he appears to have no suspicion of it. But I 
can soon show him. I have promised to call." 
And as the young man turned into the Rue La 
Bo6tie he said to himself: *^I can easily find out 
what he has in his mind and what he wants." 
And he entered the Hotel Powers. The clerk 
telephoned and received the answer that M. 
Limerel might go up at once. As he entered the 
little salon, Reginald came forward to meet his 
guest with extended hand and no appearance 
of surprise. 

''I must beg you to excuse the disorder of 
my rooms," he said, *'as my man has not had 
time to finish packing." And in fact a pile of '^ 
garments, neatly folded, was Ijdng on a sofa. 



THE BARRIER 135 

The young men entered into conversation at 
once, but Reginald, remembering the Limerel din- 
ner and the sarcastic reception accorded to his 
account of his excursions among the charitable 
institutions of Paris, replied to F61icien^s ques- 
tions with a studied reserve which would have 
seemed scarcely civil if it had not been tempered 
by look and manner. 

At last F61icien asked impatiently: 

''By the way, you saw my aunt yesterday?" 

"No," 

''OhI The day before, then?" 

"No. She is well, I hope. You have had no 
bad news from her? " 

"None whatever," replied F^licien, with rising 
irritation. "And if there had been, you, being so 
near a neighbour, would doubtless have heard it 
first." 

"Not unless the messenger mistook his way," 
replied the Englishman calmly. 

The directness and sincerity of his tone checked 
F^licien, who began to realise that if this man 
had a secret he would certainly not allow it to be 
drawn from him by sarcasms and light skirmishing. 

"Well," he remarked, changing his tactics with 
the pliancy which was one of the charms as well 
as dangers of his temperament, "I imagine that 
you have brought your charitable investigations 
to an end." 

"Not at all," returned Reginald. 

"What I Not yet? It must be a wager then. 
At your age, to pass a fortnight in Paris visiting 
nothing but churches and hospitals I" 



136 THE BARRIER 

''Pardon me, bat if I find more that appeals 
to me and stirs my mind in such sights than in 
museums and theatres, why not? We are not all 
obliged to look at things in the same way. At 
this moment these essential and vital subjects 
occupy me exclusively. You are probably unin- 
terested in religious speculations/* 

"You are mistaken." 

The Englishman made a deprecating gesture 
as if to say: *'I do not insist. I should be sorry 
to go too far. I merely meant to express a pos- 
sible difference between us," and resumed with a 
new accent of courteous interest: 

*'I am preparing to go to Montmartre this even- 
ing, to spend the night in the Basilica." 

"Can that be done?" asked F^licien. 

A smile from across the Channel, a barely per- 
ceptible movement at the comers of the smooth- 
shaven lips which would not have been noticed 
beneath a Frenchman's moustache, betrayed 
Reginald's surprise, but he made no rejoinder. 
F^licien, however, asked for no explanation; his 
expression suddenly changed, ' and under the 
sway of some influence which his interlocutor could 
not divine, his irritation vanished for the time, as 
he asked earnestly: 

"Will you allow me to accompany you?" 

"To Montmartre? Certainly. You can be my 
guide there if you will. On our arrival I shall find 
a person awaiting me to whom I have brought a 
letter of introduction." 

"I shall not be in your way, then?" 

"Not m the least." 



THE BARRIER 137 

F^licien added in a lower tone, as though speak- 
ing to himself: 

" It is strange enough. You are going out there 
in search of a faith: I to find out if I still possess 
one." 

The Englishman inclined his head, inwardly 
moved by this sort of moral resemblance, and 
struck by the sudden gravity of F61icien's tone. 
They did not pursue the subject further, but both 
understood that this night's experience was to 
have a decisive influence over their destiny. For 
the next few hours they were to be united, in spite 
of the dissimilarity of their natures, by a like 
noble impulse, a religious inspiration, and this 
was a motive for mutual esteem. 

But Reginald abandoned himself far more 
readily than F^licien to this influence, being free 
from all jealousy, and his yearning after truth 
unmixed with personal motives. 

F61icien's mental suffering had other less ex- 
alted causes, and was due not so much to his loss 
of faith as to the possible consequences of avow- 
ing it. The motives guiding his actions left him 
a prey to perplexity without aspiration, sufficient 
oiJy to lead him for a few hours into the com- 
pany of the saints where silent miracles of grace 
might be looked for. Both men were tr5ring a 
spiritual experiment, but only one was seeking 
the light for its own sake. 

"It is agreed then," said the Englishman; "at 
a quarter after eight you will find me in the 
salon downstairs, and we will take a carriage at 
once." 



138 THE BARRIER 

*^My father would laugh at me if I told him 
where I am about to spend the night. He would 
not believe me — and it does, in fact, seem incredi- 
ble — so I cannot ask him to lend me his car, 
though I often borrow it on less worthy pretexts. 
This evening, then." 

F61icien had another reason for not communi- 
cating his plan to his father. M. Limerel, being 
accustomed as a man of business to read men's 
minds and detect their motives of self-interest, 
would have suspected at the first word the con- 
nection between Montmartre and Marie Limerel, 
and have felt convinced that Reginald never 
would have gone there except for her sake, and 
probably at her instigation. 

About nine o'clock, accordingly, the two young 
men reached the foot of the stairs which ascend 
the hill of Montmartre. It had been raining, and 
a cold wind, the final gust of a retreating storm, 
drove the clouds in tattered shreds towards the 
south, while the white domes of the Basilica soared ^ 
into the pure azure above. 

Before entering at the little door which opened 
in the midst of scaffoldings, they both turned to 
look back for a moment. Paris spread below 
them like a rose-tinted plain, barred across its 
whole extent by a scarf of soft mists, the farther 
end of which rested upon the slopes of Belleville 
and M4nilmontant. And above this bank of fog 
and smoke the sky was swept clear, a spotless 
pathway for the young moon. On the heights 
the last gleam of day was slowly fading, while 
below, in that valley of hewn stones, lines of 



THE BARRIER 139 

twinkling lights traced to the limits of the horizon 
a prodigious network of streets and avenues. 

On entering the precincts of the church, the 
young men found a man awaiting them, who had 
evidently been notified of the Englishman's visit. 

"I regret, gentlemen,'' he said, "that there is no 
one to present me to you. I am Louis Proudon, 
president of the society of Les Pauvres de 
Montmartre." 

"He is evidently a gentleman," thought Regi- 
nald, as he gazed at him attentively for a moment. 
He was a man of medium height, thin, and stoop- 
ing slightly, whose delicate, bearded face, some- 
what severe in outline, was lighted up by the 
smile of one who voluntarily submits bia will to 
that of others — ^the gentleness of the strong. 

"I will guide you over the Basilica," he said. 
"We will first attend the Adoration of the Poor, 
then I will take you to the chapel where the gen- 
eral service of adoration takes place. Whenever 
you desire it you can go to the rooms reserved for 
you and rest. You are young for a night of vigil. 
One has to get used to it. You have never been 
here before?" 

"I have not, since the evening of my bacca- 
laureate," replied F61icien. "And you. Monsieur, 
do you not sleep at all during the night?" 

The President of the Poor smiled. "Oh, no," he 
replied. "It is necessary, you see, to have some 
one awake whenever the hour strikes, to summon 
each new party to take their turn in the service. 
It is a little hard at first, but one gets used to it, 
I assure you." 



140 THE BARRIER 

He spoke simply^ as he led his guests mto the 
donnitory, where several poor, dejected lookmg 
men were seated, like soldiersi on the edge of their 
camp-beds, awaiting the bowl of soup which was 
soon brought to them, with a slice of white bread 
and a glass of red wine. F^licien was inclined to 
prolong this visit which distracted his mind from 
what was to follow. But Reginald, who had not 
the same apprehensions in regard to the silent 
vigU in the church, hastened on. Happily the 
ordeal did not begm at once. 

Between the building they were now visiting 
and the church itself stretched a sort of postern 
path, damp and grass-grown, lined on each side by 
the enormous piers which support the edifice, and 
open to the sky overhead. Here Reginald said, 
with a slight laugh, "Pardon me, but this will be 
our last chance to smoke a cigarette,^' and drawing 
from his pocket a silver case stamped with the 
arms of Oxford, he offered it to each of his com- 
panions in turn, and the smoke of three cigarettes 
soon mingled with the night air. 

At a little past nine, standing side by side in 
the crypt, and leaning against the same pillar, 
Reginald and F61icien were gazing upon a spec- 
tacle equally new to them both. Reginald was 
farther forward in the half-light, and F61icien 
behind him in the shadow close by the stairway 
leading from the subterranean church to the 
upper nave. ' They were motionless, and scarcely 
visible on the outskirts of the brightly lighted 
space before the altar, encircled by low, heavy 
pillars. In this luminous half-circle some forty 



THE BARRIER 141 

men were kneeling. Their leader, the fraternal 
Louis Proudon, standing close to the altar-rail, 
was reading the evening prayers aloud to them 
from a small book which he held in his hand, and 
all at once they began uttering the responses 
in rude, hoarse voices, strangely unlike hw — ^the 
voice of the mob which shouts, sings, curses, 
threatens, and which was now praying. 

Then the men sang a hynm together, and kneel- 
ing or seated, joined in worship with unspoken 
words which they could not have originated, but 
must have revived from far-ofif memories, or 
received from Him to whom they now looked up. 
What power had they to make prayers for them- 
selves? What did they know beyond their pov- 
erty and the needs of a heart that could still love? 

They were rapt and attentive as those who 
await the passing of a bridal procession beneath 
the porch. Their eyelids were but partly raised, on 
account of the dazzling light and their weariness. 

Reginald and F^licien examined these counte- 
nances which showed little change of expression, 
except where some moving thought or memory 
rose clearly from the depths of their obscure souls. 
As they gazed, our young men understood more 
clearly that these were not only the genuinely 
poor, but the utterly wretched, those who excite 
fear rather than pity, vagabonds with rough 
beards torn by battling with the winds and worn 
by the stones which had served as their pillow, 
clothed in miserable rags, some with coarse 
mufflers wound about their necks in spite of the 
heat, because they were wearing all the clothing 



142 THE BARRIER 

they owned. Doubtless the thieves of Calvary were 
here; but chiefly the outcast, those destitute of 
bread, of shelter, without families and without 
hope, were watching at the feet of the Master 
whom they had found. 

Many of those sad eyes — ^the eyes of the de- 
spised, in which hate takes up its dwelling — ^were 
raised now and softened for a brief moment; 
then the rusty door of their souls closed again. 

Behind the two young men, the President of the 
Poor had drawn near, and now murmured in a 
scarcely audible voice but with a note of tender- 
ness: 

''You see that man who is standing on the edge 
of the circle, the dark, bald man, with a little 
colour in his cheeks — ^he is almost rich now. He 
has often slept under the bridges and fed on the 
leavings from the restaurants, but at present he 
is a sort of aristocrat, having a small public em- 
plojmient. He makes a living by gluing, direct- 
ing, and stamping newspaper wrappers — an ex- 
ceptional thing here. But he is good, he does not 
forget us, and since he gave up begging he has 
never failed to come here to pass every Saturday 
night with his old street companions." 

Some of the men were yawning now, without 
disguise, and others were falling asleep. There 
were wistful gleams here and there from beneath 
the heavy eyelids. 

Proudon resumed: "Those two with hollow 
cheeks, side by side in the middle, look! one of 
them has just dropped ofif, and it is only right 
that he diould, poor fellow 1 You would not 



THE BARRIER 143 

believe what excellent men they are. They 
are glass-blowers who work all ni^t keeping up 
the fires. Their only free night is Saturday, and 
they spend it here. The older one came first and 
said to the other on Sunday when he went back to 
work: 'I have never rested so well as last night, 
and yet I only slept by snatches in a chair. I will 
take you along with me next Saturday. ' " 

As he spoke, Louis Proudon was already ascend- 
ing the steps leading from the crypt into the 
choir of the Basilica. The immense nave was in 
shadow as he led them in the direction where all 
the life of the place was centred — ^the chapel of 
the Virgin behind the high altar, where the sacra- 
ment was exposed. He left them at the entrance, 
saying: 

"Your rooms are ready and you can go to them 
when you like. You may depend upon me to call 
you in the morning.'* 

F61icien was standing nearest to the aisle, with 
Reginald directly behind him, while before them 
was gathered a throng of between two and three 
hundred men. They were not singing, but stand- 
ing silently, all these human souls, absorbed in 
the contemplation of one object, to which the 
attention of the new-comers was drawn as imperi- 
ously by the force of their united thought as rays 
of light are attracted towards their eternal source. 

This mysterious force which emanates from a 
deeply absorbed multitude sweeps all before it like 
a mighty wind, thrilling the soul as it is borne 
along. F61icien had less need than Reginald of 
being swept away on this irresistible current. 



144 THE BARRIER 

Early memories, mingled emotions of defiance and 
regret, drew his eyes towards the monstrance and 
the Host within. 

He fixed his long unaccustomed gaze upon it, 
asking nothing, simply yielding himself to the 
old experience ; and as he did so, he acquired the 
conviction that nothing stirred within him. He 
was grieved to find himself so unmoved except by 
the one thought: 

"Must I own to Marie that I cannot pray? 
That I cannot weep except for her or, rather, 
for mjrself ? Must I tell her this? The very saints 
themselves have had their moments of spiritual 
lethargy." 

He turned his eyes away, but thoughts no less 
cruel assailed him. ''I was not always like this; 
a spring has dried up within me. Words once full 
of meaning are empty now. I feel by the coldness 
of my heart that all fraternity is dissolved be- 
tween me and those who worship ; I am no longer 
one of them. To-night is not the first time that I 
• have been conscious of this change, but what over- 
powering evidence at last!" 

He yearned to find that he was not the only in- 
different one, and his eyes turned from one to 
another of the men on their knees around him. 
All were praying. There was one close beside him 
whose lips did not move, but whose eyes were 
raised to the altar and who never stirred. As 
F^licien watched him, a mist seemed to pass 
across his eyes like a cloud of incense, then they 
resumed their limpid, deeply rapt gaze. F^licien 
stole a glance at Reginald, who was standing mo- 



THE BARRIER 145 

tionless with folded arms^ and who, on Ins side, 
was sa3dng to himself: 

"These men belong to all clasaes except the very- 
poorest. They come here without ambition or 
any hope of human reward, and yet they receive 
a compensation for tiie physical repose they sacri- 
fice. Their souls find a support which is revealed 
in their faces. They have found peace — some- 
thing at least of that peace which we all pursue, 
and which flees before us. It is here, for them 
at least. 

/^Yes, they are sincere. Every night men are 
watching and praying on the mountain above 
Paris; perhaps mysteriously protecting the city. 
What a contrast to all the corruption below! 
Such contrasts were absent from the old civiliza- 
tions." 

And he thought of all he had read of the cor- 
ruptions of Babylon, the insolence, the lust, the 
cruel barbarity which held such countless women, 
rich and poor, in bondage, for whom there was no 
true life, only a blighted spring without maturity 
and an unendurable old age. He thought again: 

"Can it be possible that through the prayers 
of these worshippers other men may be redeemed 
— ^their kindred, their friends, their enemies 
even? Are they like clouds carrying their grate- 
ful moisture to the ends of the earth? What a 
noble idea of power 1 What a dominion wider 
than all earthly kingdoms!" 

At this moment F^icien bent forward and 
spoke to him: 

"I am going. Will you come, too?" 



146 THE BARRIER 

"Not yet." 

"We will meet, then, at daybreak." 

"Very well." 

F^licien lingered a moment, thinking that 
Reginald might decide to follow him; then he 
pa^ed out of the church, and his retreating step 
echoed along the flag-stones outside. 

Reginald's meditation continued: "They do not 
doubt that they are in the presence of the Christ 
transfigured by love — of a divine presence min- 
gling with the throng, close to all human misery. 
That would indeed be the supreme consolation; 
humanity calls for such a presence. It is lacking 
to such as we — a, wider chasm separates us from 
him than from these worshippers. Perhaps they 
see him in vision, these men with the rapt faces! 
Why these temples, if we cannot hold God within 
them? There where Christ is nearest, truth must 
be. To have Christ within us — ^not merely grace, 
but lifel" 

Words from the gospel come back to his memory, 
from the old Bible whose binding had been worn 
by generations of his fcimily, seeking to compre- 
hend what is meant for all. Memories of Red- 
hall assailed him. How they wounded the heart 
which yet did not try to turn away from them! 
The forest, the pond, the ivy-covered walls, the 
rhododendrons in bloom, the old castle, the faces 
above all, passed before the young man as he stood 
so long upright and motionless like one on guard 
before his king on some grand levee day. The 
images were so clear, the words interchanged be- 
fore his departure retained so distinctly their very 



THE BARRIER 147 

tone and sequence, that a great grief overpowered 
him. 

He was alone at night, in a church in France, 
where none of the beings dearest to him could 
follow him in thought, lost, forgotten, the only 
stranger perhaps, certainly the only heretic, in 
that throng. Why, he asked himself, did he re- 
main there? and he would have been unable to 
give a satisf)dng answer. 

He gazed insistently on the sacred wafer amidst 
its golden rasrs — a sort of spell kept his eyes fixed 
upon it. A secret and gentle will which he felt to 
be perfectly reasonable, controlled him and kept 
his heart and spirit open, like casements to the air 
of spring. 

Reginald experienced anew, amidst these Catho- 
lic surroundings, the child's first, consciousness 
that he has a soul which he raises with reverence 
to God, such a feeling as he had experienced 
in his early childhood when his father was reading 
the Book aloud at evening in the chapel at Red- 
hall. But there mingled with it a new thrill of 
emotion, an impulse towards somethmg higher, 
a splendid inspiration. 

He thought: *'This is the overthrow of rebel- 
lious reason, but the triumph of the loftiest wis- 
dom and love. What if He were here present, 
impossible to recognise until he spoke, as in the 
garden of the sepulchre he appeared to Mary 
Magdalen, who supposing him to be the gardener 
cried: 'Have you seen Mm?' She saw him and 
yet sought him still. Oh, to ask from him 
strength, life, the way!" 



148 THE BARRIER 

He was not weary of standing, yet his knees 
bent and he remained for a time kneeling, without 
turning his eyes from the Host before which 
his doubt prayed as did the faith of those others. 

He rose at last. His companions had paid 
no attention to his movements. Other men came 
up as the clock struck, to take their hour of 
watching. He left his place without another 
glance, agitated by happy emotions, and sought 
the chamber reserved for him in one of the build- 
ings adjoining the Basilica. His bed was too 
short and hard for sleep to come at once. He had 
supposed that at this height above Paris he 
should hear the intermittent roar of the city like 
the murmur of the sea, and this fancy had not been 
without its influence on his i^lve to spend a 
night at Montmartre. 

But he was disappointed. Instead of a sound 
like the rise and fall of the tide, absolute silence 
reigned, broken only by the shriek of locomotives 
from the Gare du Nord. Benumbed by fatigue, 
Reginald fancied himself on a sailing-vessel, 
perched aloft in the rigging, hearing orders 
shouted back and forth on the decks below. At 
times a deep thunderous sound rose from the 
depths of the ocean, without his being able to 
divine where the monstrous surge would break. 
And that other cry, far ofif, despairing, was it not 
the signal of a vessel in distress? Then all tumult 
died away; the vision of the sea faded into deep 
slumber. The wind subsided as it had risen, 
and Montmartre, with the millions, waking or 
sleeping, around it, was as silent as the tomb. 



THE BARRIER 149 

Reginald was sleeping profoundly when M. 
Louis Proudon knocked at his door, crying: 

"It is a quarter after three, Monsieur the Eng- 
lishman whose name I cannot recall! It is time 
to rise." 

Shortly afterwards the three men were ascend- 
ing the flight of stone steps leading to the roof of 
the Basilica, F61icien having joined them. He 
was pale, and the flashing eyes which lent such 
animation to his countenance were veiled by 
fatigue, or some other cause. 

"A glorious morning," exclaimed Reginald, 
pointing to the horizon. 

"A glacial morning," responded F61icien, "and 
if it is the same to you, we will not linger here 
long." 

"Very well; as you please." 

F^licien shook the hand which the Englishman 
held out to him, but with so little cordiality that 
the latter noticed it, filled as his mind was with 
thronging impressions; but he merely said to him- 
self: "It is the loss of sleep; his ill-humour will 
soon pass." And deciding that Frenchmen had 
very little endurance, he pursued his way along 
the gutters at the edge of the tiled roof. Their 
guide next preceded them up an inner stairway 
leading to the gallery which surrounds the central 
dome above the great stained-glass windows. 
Reginald, emerging first, called back: "M. Limerel, 
come quickly 1 It is splendid, really splendid!" 

Slowly he began to make the tour of that 
lofty ch£min de ronde, suspended in mid-air, and 
paused to look out at each opening in the parapet* 



150 THE BARRIER 

''It is indeed a rare morning," murmured 
Reginald. "All Paris is visible as London never 
is. Yes, the city is not so vast that one cannot see 
the country beyond. What is that to the north? " 

'The plain beyond St. Denis," replied M. 
Proudon, ''and those dark streaks far away to the 
left are the forest of St. Germain." 

"It is the last moment of the morning twilight," 
resumed Reginald. "See! Paris has no artificial 
lights now except at the railway stations, where 
the signals are still burning. The city is khaki- 
colour; it is like an immense flat ant-heap, or an 
open stretch of ploughed land, sprinkled with tiny 
pebbles which are buildings and green leaves which 
are gardens. And what a sky above it ! " Long 
streamers of transparent mist floated above the 
houses, partly dissolving in the breeze from the 
west, but in the east they united to form a heavy 
bank of violet fog which rested over Belleville. 
There the summit of tte fog-bank turned to rose- 
colour at the spot where the sun was about to 
pierce it, then to blood-red. Elsewhere the sky 
was swept clear by a keen wind, and close to them 
rose an aerial island, milky-white, formed by 
the roofs with their lace-like pinnacles, and the 
domes crowned with slender spires, of the Basilica 
itself. 

"We are above the zone of blackening smoke," 
said Reginald, who was leaning over the parapet, 
not far from Fflicien. " How transparently white 
this stone is. The church seems built of ala- 
baster. It is blessing Paris in the splendour of 
the daybreak. Ah, there is the sun!" 



THE BARRIER - 151 

"The sun," said F61icien. "Well, why do you 
greet it like that?" 

Reginald did not hear, absorbed in the spec- 
tacle before him. The edges of the canopy rolled 
up by the mist were turned to a vast pomegranate 
flower, then to a marigold, and now, ma^ificent 
and dazzling as it was, it had become as noth- 
ing, for above it rose the full orb of day. A 
moment, and it was completely free. A few of 
the loftier edifices below them caught the light, 
while the houses were still wrapt in shadow; 
close at hand the summit of one of the smaller 
domes seemed to blossom like a tuft of stone, 
then turn to flame. 

"You speak like a worshipper," said F^licien. 
"You are growing lyrical." 

His voice was harsher than its wont, and be- 
trayed sufifering. He had risen and was leaning 
against one side of a pillared opening in the para- 
pet, while Reginald stood on the opposite side. 
His cheek was pale, even in the fludi of dawn, 
and his face was set and sad. 

"You are becoming a Catholic!" he exclaimed 
suddenly. 

Reginald, who had made no reply to the first 
attack, now responded quickly: 

"I cannot let you assert what is not the fact. I 
have been deeply moved, it is true. Such a morn- 
ing following such a night ! But the other thing is 
not true. Should you not be glad for me, however, 
if it were?" 

"Frankly, no." 

"You surprise me!" 



152 THE BARRIER 

"It is possible that I may surprise you, but it 
is best that we should understand each other, 
and indeed I wish it." 

Fflicien's tone had grown so vehement that 
Reginald slowly turned to face him. In that nar- 
row space, that cell of light into which the two 
men had mounted to watch the sun rise over 
Paris, they now fronted each other like ad- 
versaries, Fflicien resolved on demanding an 
explanation, Reginald taken by surprise and 
torn abruptly from his mood of enthusiasm. 

*'Yes, I wish you to know the depths of my 
heart. You need not protest. I tell you that I 
wish it. It is not perhaps so noble as yours, nor 
SO pure and sublime, and it is certainly less 
happy, but it will interest you nevertheless. You 
must know then that I have been wrestling all 
night with the same problem which apparently 
confronts you." 

''Not apparently but actually," said Reginald. 

"Well, for me no hope has dawned, no new 
strength has come to my aid. On the contrary, 
my doubts have increased. I have retraced the 
course of my life with startling lucidity, and have 
found myself much farther removed from my 
devout youth than I had thought." 

"I am sorry for you. Monsieur." 

"You ought to rejoice." 

"How could I, when I see you suflFering?" 

"Yes, but you also see me conquered already. 
You may conclude that the advantage is with 
you. I know your secret, and from the first day 
we met I have seen through your schemes." 



THE BARRIER 153 

"My schemes!" 

"Your attentions to my cousin and your pious 
excursions over the city. These are closely re- 
lated terms, are they not?" 

He drew nearer as he spoke, and bent forward. 
The muscles of his jaw and the veins in his forehead 
and temples stood out beneath the skin, heighten- 
ing the look of anger in his face as he cried: ''You 
must be in haste to descend and to be alone with 
your happiness. You are waited for. As soon 
as it is broad daylight you will hasten to my aunt 
Limerel's to give an account of your night-watch. 
And you know how it will be received. Do not 
deny it! Yours is the devotion pleasing to my 
cousin Marie." 

Reginald had scarcely stirred, even when 
F^licien touched him with his quivering finger- 
tips. Standing very upright, with his back to the 
wall and his face impassible, he had merely raised 
his clenched hands towards his breast in case he 
should be attacked. After the last words had 
died away in silence, he replied deliberately: 

"You are inventing all this." 

"That is easy. to say; prove it!" 

"The proof is equally easy. I shall not see 
Mme. Limerel, because I am leaving Paris this 



1 mommg." 



"What do you say?" 

"I say that I am leaving Paris this morning 
by the eleven thirty-nine train." 

F^licien gazed fixedly for a moment at the man 
who thus briefly spumed any implication of treach- 
ery. He divined — ^he felt convinced — ^that this 



154 THE BARRIER 

rival who had crossed his path was an absolutely 
loyal nature whom he had insulted with his unjust 
suspicions. He turned pale and his eyes filled aa 
he held out his hand, saying: 

^Tardon me. I have misjudged you. I am 
bitterly unhappy." 

Then, not wishing to break down utterly and 
fearing that further words would betray his 
emotion he turned back to the opening through 
which the morning light streamed in. Reginald 
did likewise, and both remained silent, the rays 
of the sun forming an impalpable barrier between 
them. Louis Proudon, leaning on the balustrade 
at a little distance off, had not heard their colloquy, 
or at least had not understood it. His thoughts 
were absorbed in his poor who would soon be com- 
ing from the slums and the outskirts of Paris for 
the eight o'clock mass and distribution of bread : 
''I shall not have enough for a fine day like this," 
he was saying to himself, ^'only two thousand 
pounds of bread. The sunshine brings them all 
out; they will gather as thick as ants." And he 
rejoiced within himself as he pictured the flight of 
steps to the eastward black with the ascending 
throng. 

The silence of the white dome, the breath of wind 
which swept by without bringing any murmur of 
voices to his ear^ aroused him from his dream. 

''Come this way, gentlemen, and let me show 
you the forest of St. Germain. It looks from 
here like a blue ribbon. You are in luck to have 
been here this morning!" 

The young men followed him, but as they 



THE BARRIER 155 

showed little interest in his exfdanations and 
asked no questions, he very soon conducted them 
down the spiral staircase to the roofs and then into 
the church, where he left them. 

A few moments later F61icien and Reginald 
stopped on the esplanade where the funicular 
descends. They had not spoken a word to each 
other since their violent altercation above. Regi- 
nald paused for one more look over Paris with 
the morning light upon it. F^licien stood a little 
apart; he had recovered his self-possession, and 
his delicate face and fine head, as he bent forward, 
with his eyes fixed upon the far-off city, gave 
him the aspect of a melancholy poet composing 
a stanza. His lips moved as if rehearsing the 
words he was about to utter, and at last he spoke, 
without turning his eyes from the scene before 
him, and with such genuine grief in his tones 
that Reginald started: 

''So many men mingle human interests with 
their search after truth. You do not. I con- 
gratulate you. Believe me, since we are about 
to separate, you ought to see Marie again." 

''But since " 

"Yes, I assure you — Not this morning — ^to- 
night you had better call on her. This morning 
there will be a great change in her life, as in mine. 
Oh! you are too proud. I seel • I understand 
and I was merely testing you. I owe her the 
truth and I have promised to tell her everything, 
that is all. It is a terrible thing, Monsieur, to 
love a woman with a despairing love like mine. 
Well, let us say good-bye." 



156 THE BARRIER 

They shook hands hastily, and Ranald replied: 

"I wish you happiness. Yes, very honestly." 

Then each went his own way, and finding a 
couple of stray cabs ihey were soon back in the 
heart of Paris. 

At eight in the morning F^cien rang the bell of 
his aunt's house, and the concierge having as- 
sured him that the ladies had gpne to early mass 
and would soon be at home, he went upstairs to 
await them in the vestibule. The maid b^ged 
him to enter, but he declined, saying: 

''No, I have only a message to ^ve and am 
going on. I will wait here." 

The truth was that he could not bear to enter 
the salon where Marie's portrait hung, nor did he 
wish to have her in sight a moment after the 
words he had to say were uttered. He felt 
already spent and exhausted. 

As he stood there, he heard approaching foot- 
steps and calm voices on the stairs; the key 
turned in the door and Mme. Limerel entered, 
followed by Marie. 

They both spoke at once, but in di£Ferent tones. 

"Is that you, Felicien? so early!" exclaimed 
Mme. Limerel, while Marie said: 

''Ahl you are here. I understand. Come 
quickly." 

She drew him in the half-light, threw back her 
veil, and on seeing F61icien's face recoiled, crying: 
''No, no, do not come!" and escaped to the ^on, 
repeating, "No, not to-day. I cannot bear it." 

As Felicien followed her to the door of the salon 
she reiterated: 



THE BARRIER 157 

'^I do not want yon to speak so soon! Mamma, 
do not let him speak/' and she retreated to the 
farthest window, with her face buried in her 
hands. 

Mme. Limerel, standing before F^icien, tried to 
hold him back, saying: ^'Do as she begs, F61icien. 
Not to-day." 

''I must," was all he answered. 

"To-morrow, if you like, my dear boy. Wait 
till to-morrow." 

"No, to-morrow I should not have the 
strength." 

"You have not taken time enough. You do 
not know what you will say to her." 

"Alas! I do indeed. I shall tell her that no 
one will ever love her as I do, since I can give her 
up and acknowledge that I am not worthy of her." 

"You will give her too much pain." 

"The harm is done, since she has seen me. 
Let me go to her." 

Mme. Limerel had closed the door at the mo- 
ment F61icien tried to enter; she now held it 
closed while her nephew stood before her, his face 
hollowed and drawn by a suffering more cruel 
than physical pain; but on this grief-stamped 
face, the will was still dominant. The mother 
saw that his resolution was final, and that to 
oppose him further was merely to struggle against 
fate which had set its imprint on F61icien's coxm- 
tenance. She drew back saying, "Go to her then, 
my poor boy!" 

He entered the room and approached Marie 



158 THE BARRIER 

where she stood by the wmdow. He appeared 
like one breathless from running as he leaned 
back against the crimson hangings. Her hands 
were still pressed across her eyes, and between the 
parted wrists her lips could be seen to move. Was 
she praying or was she still repeating in tones of 
exhaustion, "Not to-day: I cannot bear it.'' 

He was now close beside her, but the wretched- 
ness of each sought a brief respite, the courage of 
each strove to gather strength for further suffer- 
ing. F61icien, at last, spoke very low: 

"Marie, I am not worthy t6 love you as you 
wish to be loved. I no longer believe." 

She took her hands from her eyes slowly; she 
was as white as he, and her lids were half closed. 

"What proof have you? I implore you not to 
deceive yourself, " she said. 

He replied hurriedly, nervously: 

"I have reflected for a week, and last night I 
watched all night, searching my very soul before 
that sacrament which was once as holy to me as 
to you." 

"Oh, be alent!" she cried. "Say no more." 

"Marie, I can pray only to you. I no longer 
believe." 

And they looked into each other's eyes, search- 
ing each other's souls. He saw her grief; he saw, 
also, the gulf between them. He saw the living 
faith, the virgin soul, which answered. No. 

Then suddenly turning away, he hastened from 
the room and out of the house, while Mme. Limerel 
entered and threw her arms around her daughter, 



THE BARRIER 159 

who clung to her weeping and repeating between 
her sobs: "Oh, mamma! it is terrible. It is too 
cruel! Have I asked too much of him? Tell 
me if I have not asked too much!" 

M. Victor Limerel had just risen and was seated 
at his writing-table in his morning costume, con- 
sisting of a grey dressing-gown bordered with red. 
The letters which he had already opened, having 
been carefully classified, were lying in four piles 
of unequal height, pending the arrival of one of 
the secretaries of the Soci6t6 Frangaise. He was 
glancing at one of the newspapers which had been 
brought him with his early mail, when F61icien 
entered the room. 

"Well, my dear boy, is that you? Where are 
you from?" 

"That is what I came to tell you." 

"Ah! I know — ^from Montmartre — ^your mother 
told me last evening. It is not a bad place, but 
you must admit that to spend the whole night 
out there, away from your home, without any 
reason — Pray explain yourself." 

"I had two reasons," F61icien replied, "which 
are in fact but one. I went there to consider a 
project of marriage." 

His father, who up to this moment had con- 
tinued, while talking, to glance at the news, laid 
his paper aside and looked up at F61icien, whose 
aspect was cold and decided and who looked 
fully master of himself. 

"A project?" he inquired. "Which do you 
mean? The one ?" 

"Yes, precisely, with my cousin Marie." 



160 THE BARRIER 

"You know my decision. That marriage can- 
not take place/' 

''It will not take place, father, because I have 
^ven it up." 

^'Ah! so much the better. So much the better. 
So you are becoming reasonable." 

"No, I am becoming desperate, father, and I 
have resolved to speak out." 

His father was pleased, in spite of himself, to 
recognise his own decision of attitude and frank- 
ness of speech in his son. 

"Of course it is natural that you should regret 
it, my son," he said. "I have never understood 
your fancy, and have opposed it. But so far as 
sentiments go, you are free." 

"You are right. I have just come from declar- 
ing to my cousin that I diall love her always, 
but that I cannot marry her." 

"Parbfeti/ It was not she who refused you, 
then? It would, in fact, have been great luck 
for her." 

"I realised that I was unworthy of her." 

"What is that you are saying?" 

"Yes, unworthy of her. I have been examin- 
ing myself for the past week and that is the con- 
clusion I have reached to-night. Unworthy, 
because she has made up her mind to marry only 
a believer, and I am no longer one." 

"What do you expect me to do about it?" 

"You can do nothing now, but it is you who 
are responsible." 

"What nonsense! I can make allowance for 
your unhappiness ." 



THE BARRIER 161 

"You are too kind." 

" — But I cannot permit you to utter offensive 
words.'' 

"To you who are responsible for my evil 
training!" 

"F61icien!" and M. Limerel struck the table 
with his clenched fist, and sprang up, pushing back 
his chair. "I order you to leave the room!" 

"Not yet! Not till I have shown you the in- 
jury you have done me. I have come for that. 
I have come to avenge it ! Do you understand? " 

"What ails you both, Victor, F61icien? What 
is the meaning of this scene, these angry voices? " 
cried Mme. Limerel, entering hastily from her own 
room, and catching her son by the arm. "How 
cold you are ! How you are trembling ! The poor 
boy is ill." 

"No," said the father stepping forward. "He 
is insolent, and I have requested him to leave the 
room." 

"My Fflicien! I do not understand." 

"I should have preferred not to have you here, 
mother," he said. "To you I would speak more 
gently." 

"He accuses us of having brought him up 
badly," said his father. "Of being the cause of 
his unhappiness." 

"Oh! what can he mean?" she cried. 

"He announced to me, my dear," M. Limerel 
proceeded, "that he considers himself unworthy 
of our pious niece Marie, that he feels he is not 
a good enough Christian to marry her; and the 
cause of his not being so, he lays at your door 
and mine, Elsa." 



162 THE BARRIER 

She dropped her son^s hand and fell back, turn- 
ing to her husband^ whose anger always cowed 
her, as she faltered: 

"He is unhappy, and unjust in consequence; 
that is but natural. Let him explain himself. 
Since we have never done him any wrong, God 
knows! it is better that the child should not keep 
to himself the reproaches he thinks he has the 
right to bring against us. Come, F61icien, we 
are willing to listen to you, your father and I, but 
on condition that you speak with proper respect. 
How can you accuse us of not bringing you up 
like a CShristian? Remember the education ^we 
have given you." 

"Yes, F61icien," pursued M. Limerel, "your 
mother is right. It would have been preferable, 
on some accounts, considering my own interests, 
to send you to a government school. I should 
have secured, in that way, certain advantages 
and a certain influence." 

"The rosette in short," broke in F61icien. 
"Why not call it by its name?" 

"Let me answer for you, Victor. Yes, the 
rosette. What can you find to blame, my son, 
in your father's laudable ambitions? The rosette 
is something, after all, and he is entitled to wear 
it. He might have done like many other people 
of stricter principles than we profess — ^he might 
have sent you to a lycfe. But he gave up the 
idea at my request. We chose for you an insti- 
tution conducted by ecclesiastics. Is that what 
you reproach us for?" 

"No," he replied. "I had early Christian 
training, I recognise it. I received more religious 



THE BARRIER 163 

instruction and saw more examples of faith among 
my masters than most of the men of my genera- 
tion. That should have sufficed, and often has 
done, to build up a sound faith, but on one condi- 
tion. It is that the family life should be in har- 
mony with these instructions." 

"WeU— what of ours?" 

"I have seen at home too many examples which 
did not agree with the lessons taught at school, 
and I have learned to doubt." 

"You have seen excellent people, F61icien." 

"I have seen that you all placed many things 
before religion." 

"What, for instance? I beg you to tell me." 

"The enumeration would be long, if I chose. 
It includes the whole of life, or what is called by 
that name: the whirl of amusement, luxury, 
honours, the future — ^yours and perhaps mine 
also. I have seen that you failed to defend the 
principles I had once been taught to venerate, the 
men who had been held up to me as examples; 
and that you allowed matters to be freely dis- 
cussed, here in your house " 

"Oh I a little freedom of conversation! A great 
affair!" exclaimed M. Limerel. 

"Let him finish, Victor." 

"I saw, even, that you approved this language 
which at first horrified me. The influences of your 
salon were not always a training in virtue. Who 
was ever concerned to practise these teachings?" 

"That is too much! Did not your mother 
preside over your first conmiunion, and with what 
affectionate solenmityl" 



164 THE BARRIER 

"But afterwards, in the years that followed, 
who sustained me in my youthful aspirations? 
Who ever tried to divine my doubts and to 
answer them? Who ever interested themselves 
in my reading? I read everything, without guid- 
ance " 

"F61icienl" 

*'In shoH, I have never understood from the 
life here at home that religion was the law by 
which we should be guided. That is what I re- 
proach you with. If you are, after all, a believer 
at heart, father " 

M. Limerel, stunned by the violence of his son's 
words, had protested but feebly, but now, at 
last, hearing his faith doubted, he exclaimed 
vehemently: 

"Of course I am a believer!" 

"Then you should have been one fundamentally, 
and have made of my childish faith the law, the 
light, the strength of my life. I have none of all 
these — ^neither law nor strength nor joy. If you 
are a believer and if what you believe exists, 
from what a heaven you banished me ! " 

"You are talking wildly, F61icien. You are 
not such as you describe. Reflect upon the 
harsh accusations you are bringing against me 
and your mother." 

He no longer spoke with irritation. He was 
groping uncertainly and blindly in this unsus- 
pected world which his son had opened before 
him. 

"I had noticed,^' he said, "that you had given 
up all religious observances." 



THE BARRIER 165 

"And you did not sufifer on that account?" 

''I did not tell you so. I attributed the change 
to errors of conduct; I felt that I had no right to 
be exacting in matters of piety, that I ought not 
to restrain your liberty." 

"That is what you call never coming to my 
aid, never suspecting, never inquiring, never see- 
ing that if I had a soul it was once yours and 
was being destroyed " 

"If we had understood," broke in his mother, 
"we would have tried." 

"Your mother sajrs truly, that if we had 
known " 

They both approached to take his hand, but he 
retreated towards the door. 

"No, you would have changed nothing in your 
lives," he said, "for you had not the will; you 
could have changed nothing in mine, for it was 
already too late. Now it is all over with my faith ; 
it is all over with the love that was in my heart; 
and with you also, my father, my mother, it is all 
over between us I" 

"Do you mean to leave us, F61icien?" 

Mme. Limerel sprang forward with arms ex- 
tended. "No, it is not true!" she cried. "He 
does not know what he is saying, this child; he 
was pale a moment ago, now his face is scarlet; 
he is beside himself." 

"I shall not leave at once, but as soon as I 
can. My presence will cause you more regret 
than happiness. I shall be a constant reminder of 
the wrong that has been done me here. Adieu ! " 

"Gol" said his father. "It is better so. I do 



166 THE BARRIER 

not know how I have endured this so long. Now 
go! Go at oncel" 

Fflicien left the room with a deliberate step, 
while his father and mother stood listening as he 
passed down the corridor; then his mother called 
after him: 

^'Come back, my child, come back!" 

"No, let him go!" said his father. ''Leave 
him alone! I forbid you to call him back!" 

They both listened, holding their breath un- 
til his footsteps died away, then M. Limerel 
added: 

"I forbid you to follow him and to contrive 
theatrical scenes which I, his father, am to accept 
as sufficient expiation for all the insults I have 
endured. It is I who will dictate terms of forgive- 
ness. I do not propose to let your weak indul- 
gence intervene. I have been seriously, odiously 
insulted! Why do you not speak? Why do you 
stare at me without a word?" 

She was no longer, as was her custom, bending 
before him in fear and admiration. The violence 
of her distress had roused another woman within 
her, no longer submissive to his will, but stirred 
by thoughts of her own and a sort of exalted 
courage. 

"Afon amij^ she said, "he has judged us!" 

"How dare you say such a thing? Judged 
us, indeed!" 

"And he is right, perhaps." 

"What! F61icien right in his attitude towards 
us? You have a singular fashion, which I am 
familiar with, of defending your husband. You 



\' 



THE BARRIER 167 

comprehend nothing, then? If I failed to stand 
up more vigorously against him " 

''It was because you felt as I did, that he was 
partly in the right." 

''Not at all! I allowed him to pour forth his 
anger, because it will give me an advantage over 
him later. When he talks of pretended wrongs 
towards him I shall be able to reproach him with 
his positive wrongs towards me. Yes, I hold him, 
if you do not throw yoursdf between us with your 
usual heedlessness. He will need money. Have 
you thought of that?" 

"You are mistaken. All the money you may 
give or refuse him will not alter his judgment of 
us. He does not respect us, he, our own son! He 
has told us so, and we have endured it!" 

She followed her husband, who, with a shrug of 
the shoulders, had seated himself once more with 
his letters and papers before him. She remained 
standing beside him, and laid her hand on his 
arm. 

"I assure you, Victor, that we are greatly to 
blame in this," she said. 

"Nonsense!" 

"Yes, I saw it all while F61icien was speaking 
— ^I said to myself that ours had been a religion 
of mere outward show." 

"Different from that of those bigotd at the 
Madeleine, happily. Yes, I admit it. What 
next?" 

With increasing energy Elsa limerel pursued: 

"We are not the Christians we profess to be. 
When our whims are gratified, our ambitions 



[ 168 THE BARRIER 



fulfilled, our fortunes safe, what remains of the 
religion we have sacrificed to these ends? What 
truth is there indeed which has not been attacked 
beneath our roof, and which we* have ventured 
to- defend? It is a fine religion, ours, my poor 
husband; it is the religion of respectability." 

*'It is the same as other people's. I have 
worked, that has been my affair, and for you 
who are reproaching me with it to-day!" 

"A show relirion," she went on. "A Sunday 
religion which we hold cheap on week-days.'' 

^'How strait-laced you are turning all at once, 
my dear!" 

"Oh, no jesting, I beg, Victor. I tell you, 
seriously, I believe that Wfe have lost our son. 
When I saw F61icien leaving us just now, my 
heart cried out, 'we are punished!* As we grow 
old we learn to see above the home the light from 
heaven, or else darkness, I see us both con- 
demned!" 

"Enough, my dear; your whole catechism 
seems coming back to you. I recommend you 
to lower your voice, for I hear one of the maids 
coming. Wipe your eyes, quickly!" 

Some one was, in fact, approaching; the door 
opened and Marie Limerel appeared on the 
threshold. She had assured herself that F£licien 
was not at home, and with her simple courage she 
desired an understanding with his father and 
mother, feeling that anything was better than a 
silent quarrel. She paused before entering. "I 
came to tell you," she said, "how urJiappy 
lam " 



#u 



THE BARRIER 169 

M. Limerel, who had risen, pointed to his wife, 
exclaiming: 

''I can readily believe it. You can see, my poor 
Marie, what misery you have caused." 

"Come,'' said Mme. Limerel, taking the young 
girl by the hand, and drawing her nearer. Then 
pointing in her turn to the man who, for the first 
time in his life, sought only to escape from her, 
she cried: "Look at him well, for I want to tell 
you to his face that you have done right, Marie. 
You wish to marry only a sincere Christian, and 
you are right. In such a marriage there is truth, 
happiness, and a deep mutual understanding. 
Do not weaken! Do not marry a half-believer. 
You are weeping now, but it is only then that 
you would know what real suffering is." 

"You see, Marie," exclaimed M. Limerel, "that 
she is quite out of her head," and so speaking 
he left the room with a shrug, though his face 
I had flushed scarlet. 

I As the two women passed on into Mme. Lime- 

rel's room, Marie spoke again: 

"He was admirable in his loyalty. He would 
not buy me at the cost of a falsehood. You 
must tell him that I shall esteem him always for 
having been victorious over himself." 

His mother murmured: "While they are still 
young, they have moments of nobility and cour- 
age. Later they show themselves as they really 
are." 

"We shall see each other later," faltered Marie 
in return, "but a long time hence. You will ex- 
plain to him that I should fear not \^\ng brave 



170 THE BARRIER 

enough now. It tortured me to make him suffer. 
Oh, that I should be the one to cause so much 
suffering 1" 

Mme. Limerel laid her hand cares^gly on 
Marie's heated brow. 

^^You are deeply grieved, my poor Marie," she 
said. 

*^0h, yes!" 

"But, believe me, the greatest grief comes later; 
that grief which is softened by no approving con- 
science, no memories of courage." Then she 
added: "You love him. You have loved him." 

The girl did not answer but the look in her 
eyes spoke for her. 

"You love him, and I, his mother, feel that I 
have no right to plead for him, to say: 'Go on 
loving him.' No, I cannot say it, and this silence 
is my condenmation. I am guilty." 

They exchanged but a few words more, their 
anxiety lest F61icien should return caused them 
both to pause and listen, and at last with a more 
affectionate embrace than ever before, Marie said : 

"Dear aunt, I have never truly known you." 

"My poor child, so many women are not their 
true selves until it is late — ^too late!" 



7 

"How fond I am growing of this Roman life, 
Marie," Mme. Limerel was saying. 

"You mean of life in Rome, mamma, as we 
are living in a hotel and you really cannot call 
that Roman life." 

"That is nothing. I mean our delightful days 
here, our pilgrimages to the churches, our rambles 
through the city, now that we are no longer mere 
tourists, collecting postcards and new to every- 
thing. Do you not feel as I do ? It seems to me 
that I have the very look of Rome stamped on 
my heart now; not the superficial look which 
one discovers at once, but the inner expression 
that completes the image. Is it so with you? Ah, 
cherie, what priceless hours!" 

"Do you think I do not prize them, too?" re- 
turned Marie. 

"They renew my soul." 

"You are far yoimger than I, mamma." 

"I am freer, perhaps, from hopes and expec- 
tations. I surrender m3rself more fully and de- 
mand less. That is sometimes the better way." 

They were seated in the JPincian gardens, which 
face the setting sun and crown the city so nobly. 
Many times since their arrival in Rome, they had 
spent the late afternoon hours there, reading to 

171 



172 THE BARRIER 

each other by turns in an undertone. The soft 
air of the terrace, the sheltering trees which 
frame the distant landscape, the glorious sunset 
hour which seems so essential a part of Rome, 
all combined for their enchantment. They had 
even selected a special garden-bench, where they 
usually sat, not in that part of the gardens ad- 
joining the Villa Medici, but at the farther end, 
beneath a group of ancient ilexes which arch 
above the Piazza del Popolo. 

The girl, who had ceased reading some mo- 
ments before, but still held the book propped on 
her knee ready to begin again, now let it fall and 
laid her hand across the open pages. At the 
same time she drew herself up and shook her 
head several times as if about to protest, but 
merely sighed without uttering a word. 

Mme. limerel softly patted the clasped hand 
which unfolded in response to her caress. 

''Marie,'* she said, ''I wish I could see your 
former courage and high spirits returning. You 
have your bright days — ^very bright, as yester- 
day at Albano — ^but there come sad ones, too. 
When you are sad you are less pretty." 

' 'Pretty 1 That is my last thought. And for 
whom?" 

"For me, dear, who need your joy to prove to 
me that I have brought you up and loved you as I 
ought, and made you strong against yourself." 

"Oh, you need have no fear! I have not 
changed. But I have been so strong against 
myself and others, too, that I am sometimes 
weary. There are moments when it seems to me 



THE BARRIER 173 

that I could never do again what I have done^ it 
has cost me so dear. And yet I do not regret. 
On the contrary, I see more and more clearly 
that it was right ^' 

"So much the better." 

" — ^That I have escaped, thanks to a sort of 
ready response to duty, which you have taught 
me or transmitted to me, from a life which would 
have been very. unhappy or very bad, possibly 
both. No, my mind does not hesitate. But the 
sorrow I have caused 1 Who will cure that?" 

"Time, my chUd." 

"And in my heart, who will cure it? Love in 
us women is made up almost wholly of the desire 
to give happiness — and I have given only suffer- 
ing. Do you understand? I have made another 
suffer." 

"Oh, it is a suffering that does not last, except 
in books, and in a few very pure hearts. But 
they are so rare! What is Fllicien doing now? 
Do you know?" 

"Yes, dearest." 

"He has written to you?" 

"Yes; two letters which reached me in Buiv 
gundy." 

"And I knew nothing of it!" 

"I even answered one of them. It was wrong 
of me not to show them to you. Pray forgive me, 
dearest. I see that I have given you pain." 

"And this time it is pain which you may regret 
causing, for I have not deserved it." 

"It is true. I did wrong. You shall see them, 
I promise you." 



174 THE BARRIER 

"What did he say?" 

"That I had cast him back forever upon his 
doubts." 

"You have merely refused to follow him." 

"He said other sad things. The second time 
I did not answer. All is over now." 

Marie bent closer to her mother. "You see he 
loved me. I had never been loved before — ^the 
power that word has over us dies slowly. Do you 
not think so?" 

"You are a true woman, Marie," said her mother, 
embracing her. Then they both ceased speaking, 
and in the silence their thoughts followed the 
same path. They had spoken in hushed tones, 
and their movements had changed so slightly the 
grouping of light and shade cast by their figures, 
that three women seated on another bench beneath 
the same roof of ilex boughs — ^a young mother, a 
blooming nurse from the Campagna, in her lace 
cap and bright ribbons, and a pale, indifferent 
school-girl — ^had not observed the presence of these 
motionless and dreamy strangers. 

The few passers-by in this remote nook of the 
garden barely glanced at them, and already the 
stream of promenaders was turning back towards 
the city. 

Some were strolling in the splendour of the 
evening, beneath the overarching foliage which 
autumn does not tinge, others along the wall 
which encircles the hill in' the full flood of golden 
light. In the throng were women leading their 
cWldren by the hand, tired clerks who had 
escaped from their desks, soldiers, students, and 



THE BARRIER 175 

groups of seminarists^ with their blue and scarlet 
sashes^ all drawn homeward at the summons of 
the Ave Maria, that curfew which calls the people 
as a shepherd his flock, and which at that season 
rang before six o'clock. The level rays of the sun, 
streaming across the city, bathed the tree-trunks 
and fell on Marie's brow, while the sweetness of 
those last gleams stole into her heart. 

*'You have escaped a danger which you see 
clearly enough now,'' her mother was saying. 
*'In future you must not let unreasoning regrets 
dim your sense of the splendid gift of life — 
nothing petty or unworthy of you." 

"Why do you speak so of my regrets? Why 
am I forbidden to cherish them? They can harm 
no one." 

'^They impair your own strength. You are not 
their prisoner as you believe. It is you who draw 
them about you. You give to the slightest words, 
to childish memories, a power they did not have 
over your heart in those days. You do this, 
Marie, to make your decision not to marry 
F61icien seem harder than it really was, harsher 
towards yourself." 

"No, not towards me." 

* ' Yes, to yourself first, and also more exceptional, 
more heroic. You build up a half fanciful sorrow 
and immure yourself within it. Oh, I can read 
your heart. I know the poor human heart which 
so often deceives itself. There is pride in your 
pain." 

"There is much pity, too, believe me." 

"Well, keep your pity, dear, but in God's sight 



176 THE BARRIER 

only, and drive away the rest — all the echoes of 
what might have been. Sacrifice the memory of 
your love, since you have given up the love 
itself." 

By way of answer Marie took up the book which 
lay in her lap, turned the first pages, and closed 
it slowly. She did it mechanically, with no 
thought of what her gesture symbolised. Then 
in the penetrating tone which reveals the mind 
wholly present in the words, she said : 

"I will try. I believe you are right in every- 
thing." 

"You must rise higher, Marie. You must rise 
to where you can find peace." 

"Where is it found, dearest?" 

"There, where we are not. Forget yourself," 
and as she spoke Mme. Limerel rose, and pointing 
through the branches to the setting sun, added 
with a smile : 

"Up yonder. Come, let us go and watch the 
last gleams of daylight. We have been talking 
so seriously that I feel the need of drawing a freer 
breath. If the Romans who are taking their 
passegiaia here had heard our talk they would 
resent such gravity in an hour like this." 

Marie had already risen. "But I do not. Our 
talk has done me so much good! But we really 
have no time to lose. Seel the sun is just sinking 
behind the portico of St. Peter's. How the city 
seems made to bask in sunlight I It lays in such 
stores all day that by evening it becomes trans- 
lucent for a moment. Look over there at the 
quarter beyond the Tiber!" 



THE BARRIER 177 

Mme. Limerd leaned over the balustrade while 
Marie stood erect beside her, both wrapped about 
in the glowing light and flhe soft breeze from the 
west; both with their eyes full of the same won- 
der and delight, both with minds open and eager, 
and one of them giving thanks that the child, 
the soul so dear to her, was growing strong 
again. 

From the heights of the Pincio, the city within 
its encircling walls appeared slightly hollowed 
at the centre, while to the south it rose in more 
billowy curves, crowned with more domes, bel- 
fries, and ruin^ everywhere intense in colour and 
warm to the eye. The flat, white-washed roofs, 
the tiles, the reddish-yellow facades, all that was 
built to shelter man, was lighted now by re- 
flection only. But these valleys of stone, closely 
built and compressed as they were, seemed to 
emit innumerable rays of light, for the air above 
them quivered like a field of golden sheaves. 
Then night stole rapidly over the scene, as 
the first violet-blue shadows crept nearer and 
nearer. 

''The daylight is dying," said Mme. Limerel. 

*'No, the garden still catches the light. See, 
mamma! those stone pines are like tufts of gold.'^ 

''They are fading now; it is all over. Only the 
dome of St. Peter's sees the vanished sun." 

''And that of Santa Maria Maggiore." 

For a few moments longer they stood there in 
silence until a breath of chill wind shook the 
leaves on the terrace and died away, then a 
second breath followed, laden with the dampness 



178 THE BARRIER 

of the Campagna marshes. The church-bells, 
voices of all the ages^ chimed the Ave Maria. 
The gardens were already deserted, 

'^The sky remains clear," said Mme. Limerel. 
"Come, it will be a lovely evening." 

They skirted the terrace, and near the Villa 
Medici descended by a hollow road winding be- 
tween walls and gardens and emerging on the 
Piazza di Spagna. 

"Here we are at homel" exclaimed Marie, "in 
the yellowest comer of Rome, the region of the 
pietra rossa. All these houses try, as they grow 
old, to look like palaces. A charming coquetry, 
is it not?" 

"Where shall we hear mass to-morrow?" 

"Wherever you choose." 

"Let it be at some church we have not yet 
visited. What do you say to our neighbour, the 
Trinitit de' Monti, which is open only on Sunday 
mornings ? " 

As she spoke they both turned instinctively to 
look up the great stairway which they would 
ascend in the morning. Then they skirted the 
little parterre, with its five tall paJms, and entered 
the Hotel de Londres where they were stajring. 

It was the sixteenth of October, and they had 
been a fortnight in Rome, finding there the di- 
version they both needed, and enjoying a "soU- 
tude k deux" which showed them how dear they 
were to each other, and gave fresh power to the 
words they exchanged, the emotions they shared, 
and even their very silences. Mme. Limerel was 
not mistaken in her belief that the influence of 



THE BARRIER 179 

the past was gradually losing its hold over 
Marie's heart. 

On the day following the last interview be- 
tween Marie and F61icien, M. Victor Limerel had 
appeared in the Avenue d'Antin, very correct and 
pompous, expressing no regrets, but imposing 
his will, as usual. 

"Madeleine," he said, ''I have a§ked to see you 
alone, because I do not wish to have a scene, and 
it would be painful to me to utter any reproaches. 
I foresaw beforehand what has taken place. I 
was perfectly aware of all the reasons which 
made a marriage between my son and your 
daughter impossible. Your fault, or Marie's, or 
that of you both, was in not understanding this 
earlier. Your weakness has produced great un- 
happiness, as you are aware. I have no confi- 
dences to make you; but my son has shown 
himself greatly wanting in his duty to us. He 
talks of taking an apartment outside my house; 
we have come to that. Such is the work of— oh! 
do not defend yourself. You know that with 
me it is useless. I have told you what has already 
taken place; it only remains for me to tell you 
what is to be in future. One thing which will 
never be permitted is this utterly irrational 
marriage. You agree with me as to that? So 
much the better. I desire to reaflSrm to you 
F61icien's decision, which my wife approves as I do. 
Yes, my wife! She may have differed from me at 
first, but I have brought her to my point of view. 
And in consequence, if it is agreeable to you, my 
dear sister-in-law, we will meet less frequently 



180 THE BARRIER 

in future. But there is no occasion that the 
world should be made acquainted with our 
family differences. I shall be silent on the sub- 
ject, so will you. We shall exchange greetings, 
of course, when we meet in our friends' houses, 
but anjrthing more we will postpone, shall we 
not, to some future day ? " 

Mme. Limerel had simply replied: "I am less 
harsh than you. Our children are, henceforth, 
irrevocably parted. It is a necessity, a fortunate 
one, if you like. But I regret above all that the 
suffering should be theirs while the fault was 
yours. I regret what might have been. Adieu.'' 

Shortly after this, at the beginning of July, she 
had left Paris with her daughter. Two months 
with relations in Burgundy had not restored 
Marie's health and spirits, as her mother had 
hoped. Marie's dear eyes — ^those "tea-coloured" 
eyes — ^had not lost their charming habit of looking 
straight into yours as she listened, of being limpid 
and steadfast, and of softening as she spoke, but 
dark shadows had gathered aroimd them. The 
lips, with their delicate curves, still smiled, but 
slight though the effort was, it was perceptible, 
and the wish to give pleasure could not replace 
the spontaneous gaiety of youth. While peace 
returned to her, her strength seemed to diminish, 
and her mother was growing anxious. She felt 
that she had been too hasty in accepting the in- 
vitation of the cousins in Burgundy. Ch&teau 
life, with its constant round of visits, sports and 
excursions, the monotonous excitement of the 
holidays, the exuberance of a flock of children. 



THE BARRIER 181 

the eager attentions of an aunt and cousins^ all 
drawn to Marie by the hint of a love-secret, were 
ill adapted to heal a proud and reserved nature. 
The distractions of society avail little against a 
cherished sorrow; they rather tend to drive the 
mind back upon itself, to stimulate its regrets by 
their futiUty, making its own pain seem nobler 
and these diversions emptier than they really 
are. 

The mother understood this at last, and carried 
her daughters away to a quiet valley in the canton 
of Fribourg, and when the time came for the 
younger girl to return to England, continued to 
travel with Marie alone. Solitude gradually did 
its work of healing, bringing back the whole past 
to the girl's conscience. In the inner silence the 
higher reasons which had led to her decision and 
had thronged to her aid only to utter the word 
*' Refuse 1" now spoke more fully, and those spirit- 
ual powers which bring a hard-won peace said to 
her sad heart: 

^*We have not deceived you. We were sta- 
tioned about you to protect your weakness. See 
how little you can rely on your own strength, since, 
after obeying us, you can still doubt. Men judge 
with a shallow judgment, and their shallowness is 
cruel. They call that an ill-assorted marriage 
where they see differences of education, of fortune 
or family, while they overlook the infinite dispari- 
ties, the misalliances of soul. Child, no human ten- 
derness is worth the price you would have paid for 
it. We are the primal compassion; the suffer- 
ing we impose lasts but for a time." 



182 THE BARRIER 

Marie listened and the eternal summits began 
to grow clear. 

On Sunday morning, a little before nine o'clock, 
as Mme. Limerel issued from the hotel with her 
daughter, they exclaimed with one voice : 

"Oh, the beautiful morning!" and basking in 
the joy of the sunlight, they traversed the short 
distance between their door and the church. The 
"yellowest comer of Rome" was more sparkling 
than usual, the spray from the fountain on the 
piazza caught a rainbow as it fell, and the famous 
staircase opposite looked as though the white 
cascade of stones had been built to hold the sun- 
shine. There was no shadow on the travertine, 
which gleamed everywhere like polished marble, 
and as Marie laid her hand on the balustrade, she 
found it warm to the touch. 

People were flocking up and down this radiant 
cleft in the hill, and at its base the flower-sell- 
ers were displaying the flowers of the season 
— B, few roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, and 
sprays of Japanese anemone. Above, the Trinit Jt 
de' Monti raised its lofty fa5ade, with the twin 
towers stained yellow long ago that their out- 
line might be less harsh against the blue of the 
sky. 

The church was nearly full; one side of the 
high grating which divides it being reserved for 
the pupils of the Sacr6 Cceur. Seated close to- 
gether, with their white veils, d la merge, falling 
over their shoulders, they formed a patch of daz- 
zling whiteness, framed by the black robes of the 



THE BARRIER 183 

nuns. At the first sight Marie recognised France, 
and became absorbed in recollections. She had 
^ often seen these veils worn by her friends in 
the great convents of Paris, and a similar one was 
now covering the far from nun-like head of her 
little sister in England. 

The lower half of the nave was filled by parents 
of the pupUs and residents of the quarter, with a 
sprinkling of peasants such as are always to be 
seen praying in the Roman churches, motionless 
and with upturned eyes. 

Marie and her mother rapidly traversed this 
throng and found a place near the grating. The 
officiating priest stood before the altar, which 
was tastefully and lovingly adorned with fresh 
flowers and foliage. 

No man could fail to be reminded by this sight 
of the pure hands which had decorated the altar, 
and would have called up a vision of spotless 
youth, a little insipid and resigned, perhaps, 
thus proving his utter ignorance of convent life. 
Marie, who knew it better and was formed to un- 
derstand this city of the soul, thought on the con- 
trary of the magnificent energy of which the lea^t 
of these women had given proof; how all had 
struggled, all had suffered, and how before gather- 
ing flowers and handling the linen upon the altar 
they had seen the imperious light of duty and had 
followed where it led. Then she turned to the 
service for the XXth Sunday after Trinity, and 
lingered over these words of the liturgy: ^'The 
eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord, and Thou givest 
them their meat in due season." 



184 THE BARRIER 

How many words like these are scattered 
through the Christian year, in order that poor 
human hopes may not fail — ^those hopes so nec- 
essary to all, so trembling, unstable, and soon put 
to flight 1 What a deep knowledge of human na- 
ture had placed there for the ages the answer 
which even happiness needs, since it craves con- 
tinuance: "Thou givest them their meat," but 
in due season only, when they have renounced the 
thought of obtaining it from the earth alone and 
from those who dwell upon it. 

At the moment of the conmiunion Marie and her 
mother made their way to the choir, where they 
knelt at the altar railing. At Marie's left a man 
was kneeling. She did not see him until she rose 
to regain her place. Then, low as her eyes were 
bent, a vague, rapid image crossed them, and 
vague though it was, a powerful emotion seized 
her. He was there in Rome, he had embraced the 
same faith as hers, he had received the same 
communion, he was walking behind her now, in 
her shadow. She resisted, from an instinct of 
reverence, the thoughts which assailed her as 
she returned to her place beside the grating and 
knelt again, troubled and humiliated by the 
throng of strange fancies which disturbed her 
devotions. 

Many of the worshippers had now left the 
church, some were stopping to exchange greetings 
upon the threshold and the sound of their voices 
entered with the breeze blowing up the nave. 
The little piazza outside was only astir on this one 
day in the week. 



THE BARRIER 185 

Marie rose from her knees before her mother 
and turned to go; she was in haste to assure her- 
self that she had not been mistaken. She looked 
about her for a glimpse of the figure she had 
half recognised, but saw only an Italian convers- 
ing with two of the sisters, a few women still 
seated, and some French tourists attempting to 
see a fresco. 

Her disappointment was keen as she passed out 
in the midst of these Romans and foreigners, all 
rejoicing in the sunshine. No one was there, no 
one for her at least, since she did not find him for 
whom she was looking. She had forgotten to 
look beside her as she passed through the door- 
way. At the moment she descended the first step 
some one held out his hand, too deeply moved to 
speak. She raised her eyes and saw his face, 
transfigured by a joy beyond all earthly joys. 
She was tempted to say: *'0h, Reginald! I re- 
joice with you," but she kept silence, and they 
descended the flight of steps without a word, but 
with their heads raised high, their eyes fixed 
above the crowd, and their hearts higher still. 
Those who looked at them might have thought 
them lovers, but something surpassing ordinary 
tenderness enveloped them both, and their souls 
raised the same hyum of thankfulness. 

Marie was the first to welcome this new son of 
the church, and he who had thought to go away 
rejoicing but alone, had found a friendly hand, a 
fraternal soul, and a memory full of his own past 
struggles. In the Rome now slumbering beneath 
the grasses, yonder along the Via Sacra in those 



186 THE BARRIER 

earlier times when the noblest of the pagan 
world had been attracted by the purity of the 
Christian rites^ such a pair may have aroused the 
wonder and emotion of the faithful who saw 
them emerging from the shadow of the churches 
into open day: a virgin initiated from childhood 
in sacred things, and beside her a young patrician 
wearing upon his face the glory and happiness 
of the new life. 

At the foot of the steps Mme. Limerel rejoined 
Marie, having only then caught sight of Reginald. 
Did she look upon him with any other feeling than 
the surprise Singled with s^pathy whilh she 
was too kindly not to feel at that moment? Did 
she wish to prolong for an instant Marie's very 
innocent dream? Whatever the reason, she paused 
a little before saying: 

''Monsieur Breynolds?" 

Reginald and Marie turned towards her. Their 
faces wore the same expression, the same radi- 
ance, as of those who had talked long together and 
reached a perfect sympathy, and yet they had not 
spoken. Reginald greeted Mme. Limerel: 

''I am like you, now," he said. ''Wholly like 
you." 

She questioned him rapidly. 

"Where are you from? How long have you 
been here ? Had you already seen us? Explain 
it all to me." 

But as the crowd was dense about them where 
they stood, they descended to the lower terrace 
and turned into a sort of open lo^a on one side. 
The sun poured down upon this little stage of 




THE BARRIER 187 

stone on which their moving figures cast light shad- 
ows. *^ We are exceedingly happy to see you, my 
mother and I/' said Marie at last. '^I cannot tell 
you how moved I was when I recognised you 
there.'' 

"It is two weeks since I was received into the 
church," he said. "There was no one there that 
day — ^no one, I mean, who had ever known me 
before." 

He spoke with a frank simplicity character- 
istic of him, while at the same time he gazed 
steadfastly at these two unexpected witnesses. 
His eyes seemed to say: "You are my family 
now. At the hour when so many others turn 
from me, it is a joy to meet you." 

"What a strange meeting!" resumed Marie. 
"When I saw you last you were far from this in 
every way." 

"Not so far as you imagined. Paris had de- 
cided me to come to Rome. I had seen marvels 
there. I wished to see their source. The months 
have passed very rapidly." 

"You stayed in Rome through the height of 
sunmier?" 

"Yes. I shall have no winter of my own." 

"That is true." 

"I regret nothing of these months, not even 
the heat," and a smile lighted up his face as he 
added: "I have made the longest journey a man 
can make. I have come to the truth." 

"The hardest journey, perhaps," said Mme. 
Limerel. 
^ "No, it has not been hard. It is now that the 



188 THE BARRIER 

ordeal will be a crael one^ for others as well as 
myself." 

Reginald turned his face towards the piazza as 
he spoke, while his expression, and even the tones 
of his voice, completely changed. Mme. Limerel 
and Marie had before them once more the man of 
the world, the oflScer in the Indian service. 

''You are staying in this quarter?" he asked. 

''Yes, just below there, at the nearest hotel. 
We look up at this staircase whenever we go in 
or out." 

"You wished to be near the house of Keats? 
Was that the reason?" 

"The house of Keats?" 

"Yes, look! opposite us, the loggia with a 
trellis. He came here to die, in that little comer 
palace. I am very fond of the poet who said so 
many moving things in so brief a time. Do you 
remember — " And he quoted the familiar line : 

*' Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are 
sweeter." 

"Was it really for his sake that you chose this 
quarter of Rome?'^' 

"Oh, no! do not fancy it. We came here partly 
by chance, and partly because it is the French 
quarter. Here are the Villa Medici and TrinitJt 
de' Monti, both French institutions, and even this 
stairway was built by Cardinal de Polignac, the 
ambassador of Louis XV. Do you see?" And 
Marie pointed out the tablet bearing an inscrip- 
tion to that effect. 



THE BARRIER 189 

The young people both smiled at these re- 
minders of their several nationalities^ but Regi- 
nald instantly turned grave again as a sudden 
recollection crossed his mind. 

"I must take leave of you/' he said to Mme. 
Limerel. "I have an important matter to attend 
to this very morning. Will you allow me to call 
upon you as soon as I am free? " 

''Gladly, Monsieur. We shall not go out before 
two." 

''I shall be at liberty before that. It takes so 
little time to give pain." 

"You are right," said Marie. "One word 
only and sorrow comes." 

He bowed and remounted the steps, while 
Mme. Limerel and her daughter continued to 
descend. At the foot they bought some flowers 
and then went to take tea at one of the caf^ in 
the Via Condotti. 

"What a fine manly naturel" said Marie. "To 
me he seems a sort of foreign brother, if one can 
say so.. To have been a witness of his doubts, 
the honest doubts of one who wishes to believe, 
who loves what he does not yet possess, and then 
to be present at this act of perfect faith! That 
is a thing which touches me, perhaps, more than 
another." 

"He has needed great courage." 

"Yes, greater, certainly, than we can imag- 
ine." 

"Since that evening at Redhall we have heard 
nothing of the Breynolds, or scarcely anything." 

"Only what Dorothy has written." 



190 THE BARRIER 

"His parents will probably never forgive him. 
He must have been thinking of them just now. 
He will tell you, perhaps." 

''No, mamma, because he is English and a 
man, and I am merely a woman. And be- 
sides " 

She hesitated and smiled to soften what might 
be wounding in her words: 

''And besides, you will be present, my dear 
mamma. I foresee a classic reception, a blending 
of comradeship and reserve, after which we shall 
separate as we did in Paris." 

Mme. Limerel's suite at the Hotel de Londres 
consisted of a salon and two bedrooms on the first 
floor, looking out on the piazza. It was in this 
salon, furnished with heavy gilt chairs and sofas 
covered with red satin, that they received Regi- 
nald. He was grave and absent-minded, and re- 
plied with a visible effort to Mme. Limerers 
friendly questionings. She had expected him to 
talk readUy of Rome, and was surprised at the 
polite indifference he showed to the monuments, 
pictures, ruins, and scenery which she enumerated 
with the ardour of her French nature, and the 
enthusiasm of a traveller who has but lately dis- 
covered Italy. The names which enchanted her 
and called up vivid pictures to her mind he 
scarcely noticed — ^the view of Rome from the 
Janiculum, St. Paul's Without the Walls, the little 
church of San Onofrio, the gardens, the Cam- 
pagna, the wagoners from the Castelli Romani 
sheltered beneath their gay awnings. Had this 



THE BARRIER 191 

Englishman grasped nothing of the Rome where 
he had been living for three months? 

^'How did you happen, Monsieur, to come to the 
Trinity de' Monti this morning? You are lodging, 
you say, in the Aventine quarter near the ruins? " 

"It was simply that I had not yet seen it." 

''Like ourselves." 

''Oh, I am far from having seen everything! I 
am not a traveller, interested above all in the 
city itself. I must come again for that, in five 
years or so, perhaps. I shall hope to find some of 
my new friends here then." 

He named one of his compatriots, a Benedictine 
who had instructed, guided, and sustained him 
through his period of study and doubt. 

"He is a sort of Thomas Winne in a monk's 
frock," he said, looking at Marie. "Not in ap- 
pearance, but in his tenacity, his vigorous reason- 
ing powers, and his friendship for me." 

But on this subject neither Mme. Limerel nor 
Marie wished to question him, and he spoke but 
briefly. He lingered, however, and Marie, who 
divined this soul at once so confiding and so re- 
served, Marie the bom consoler, with her intuitive 
sense of the neighbourhood of trouble, suddenly 
said: 

"I am sure that you would like to take a walk 
with us!" 

"Yes, that is the very thing." 

"And you did not dare to ask? Why? You 
have some chosen nook in Rome that you would 
like to show us, and see whether we share your 
admiration? Have I guessed right?" 



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THE BARRIER 193 

this walk with Monsieur Breynolds, since you 
see that he cares about it/' 

^'So be it. We will go wherever you say. 
Monsieur. To-morrow at three, if you like." 

Reginald did not answer at once, but waited 
till his face had obeyed the command of his 
will and grown less stem and sad, then he said 
with an attempt at cheerfulness which still ex- 
cited pity: 

''To-day I have something else to ask. You 
will laugh at me, Madame." 

"Oh, no, surely notl" 

''We are sometimes rather superstitious in 
England, and perhaps I am so still. You must 
pardon some weaknesses in a new convert." 

As he spoke he drew a letter from his pocket. 
"I have been writing this letter, which has cost 
me more than any I have ever written. No, I 
cannot remember ever tracing words with such 
pain. There are some cruel ones, you know. I 
have asked a great favour, one which will be hard 
to grant." And he held the letter out to Marie. 

''I should like the purest of hands to mail it. I 
feel as if the request I am making would thus have 
more chance of not being refused by one who is 
very hard, very stem. Will you do this for 
me?" 

"Go together," said Mme. Limerel. "You are 
both young and both sad, and it will be a way of 
helping one another. You know the letter-box, 
Marie, across the piazza. Go!" 

Marie took the letter and ran to put on her hat. 
She then led the way down the stairs without a 



194 THE BARRIER 

word, but distress and pity were in both their 
hearts, and they felt life vibrating between them. 

As they crossed the piazza Reginald said: 
"Read the address/' 

Marie raised the letter in the sunlight and read : 

"Sir George Breynolds, Bart., 

''Eden Hotel, Pallanza." 

"Your father is at Pallanza?" 

"Yes, with Robert Hargreave. I count very 
much on Hargreave, for he knows all. No, do not 
drop the letter in yet. Listen 1 you have the right 
to know what it contains, for it is the direct con- 
sequence, the end of a painful conflict in which 
you bore a part.*' 

"Do you regret it?" 

"No, I thank you for it all. Sorrow has come 
from it, but a happiness too, surpassing all — ^the 
happiness of this morning, which will endure and 
in the end will stifle the pain." 

He spoke more freely now; his youth confiding 
again in her who had been involved once before 
in this unfinished drama, the counsellor of cour- 
age, the loyal spirit who had kept silence and 
asked for no return. 

"Come this way into the shade," he said, and he 
led Marie a few steps down the Via San Sebastiano, 
which was sheltered from the sun. She wore again 
the deeply thoughtful look of one who is appealed 
to for help, and is conscious of being able to ^ve 
it, and yet fears to exercise a power which reaches 
out into the unknown. 

"I can repeat it by heart," he said. ''listen: 



THE BARRIER 195 

'^^My dbak Father: Every word you said to 
me on the day when, at your command, I left 
Redhall is stamped on my memory. You spoke 
in anger caused by me, but .they were words you 
believed to be true and for my good. I would not 
reproach you for one of them. You were within 
your rights as a father, and such as I niever 
doubted I should find you. I realise now that 
you knew me better than I knew myself. It ap- 
peared to you that my conduct in several in- 
stances was dictated by a beginning of allegiance 
to the Catholic faith, not by mere detachment 
from my earlier beliefs. I suffered for that faith 
even before being fully conscious that it was mine. 
This very suflfering must prove to you, my dear 
father, that my adherence to the greatest church 
has not been given without deep study, reflection, 
and prayer. I am sure you will not believe for 
a moment that I have been able to incur your 
disapproval and cause you deep regret, without 
being forced to do so by the supreme rule which 
should guide a man in all things, and which you 
have yourself taught me to follow — devotion to the 
truth. Father, the eucharist which I saw raised 
upon the hills of England has become mine. For 
a week I have participated in the sacraments of the 
Roman Church. It was a Benedictine of our own 
nation who gave me spiritual instruction. A week 
ago when I was received into the church, several 
English brothers were beside me. I would have 
given my life to have all those who are dear to me 
there also. I am about to return to Assam, my 
dear father; it is a long journey, as you know. I 



196 THE BARRIER 

wish from my heart not to undertake this journey 
without seeing you again. I entreat you to re- 
ceive me. You need not approve what I have 
done because you receive me, but it will make my 
sorrow a little less heavy — ^yours too, perhaps — ^if 
we can see each other once more. I shall await 
your answer Wednesday, at Pallanza. 

"'And now I fulfil the promise I gave you. 
Since you have decided that Redhall should be 
taken from me, you can do as you see fit. 

"'Your affectionate son, 

"'Reginald Breynolds.' 

"That is my letter. It was a very painful 
one to write. I was almost moved to tears, I, 
a man, at the thought of leaving without seeing 
him again. But if you post the letter there will be 
a blessing on it. IJe cannot refuse. There, drop 
it in." 

Marie's fingers tightly clasped the letter which 
now seemed to her alive and speaking. In spite 
of the dazzling sunshine, she saw the houses 
across the piazza through a veil of mist. 

"Redhall will not be yours, then?" 

"No." 

She would not allow herself to judge where 
Reginald did not, but as she stood there pale, 
proud, and trembling a little : 

"You are very brave," she said. "I could not 
have believed that such a fate hung upon this 
letter. What you have told me now, and what 
you said to me once before, I shall never for- 
get." 



THE BARRIER 197 

Then she stepped across the sunny space to the 
box and dropped the letter slowly, listening to the 
muffled sound it made as it fell, while Reginald 
gazed after her until she rejoined him. 

"To-morrow, then, I shall bid you good-by," 
he said, as they walked away. "This time it 
seems to me that we shall not meet again. I 
wish you every joy in your engagement." 

She turned her head away abruptly, saying: 
"But I am not engaged." 

"What! I thought you were to marry — " 

"No. We are not to be married, I, too, have 
had a great sorrow. Au remirP^ 

They had reached the hotel as she spoke, and 
Marie entered quickly, leaving Reginald outside. 
He thought he saw her from a distance wave him 
a friendly farewell, yet he remained standing 
before the door through which she had vanished, 
half expecting her to return. 

A carriage driving up, full of travellers, obliged 
him to retreat, and he walked away towards the 
centre of the city, his heart beating rapidly. His 
mind was tossed and buffeted by the tempest 
within him, by all the thronging troubles he had 
already foreseen, and others rising before him. 
He tried to make head against the howling pack. 
He heard their cries : 

"Your father has renounced you, your mother 
is in tears, Redhall is lost to you ! Countless affec- 
tions are wounded; there is nothing left you but 
to flee! All the treasure of love built up for you 
by your parents and friends, your old comrade- 
ships, the ivy on the walls of home, the pond that 



198 THE BARRIER 

will spread its blossoms for other eyes^ all sacri- 
ficed by you^ all! Madman who have despised 
that weialth of love which enriched your youth!" 

He kept repeating as he walked along the streets : 
"I have done ri^t. I will not count up my 
griefs. God has counted them for me. Such 
thoughts will weaken me. Away with them!" 

Then another voice, a new one, powerful as all 
the rest together, said: ''Marie is free and you 
never dreamed of it. Marie is free, free, free!" 

How little he resembled the busy or idle prome- 
naders he passed, or even himself of the day 
before, or that very morning! On he went along 
the Corso and the Piazza Venezia, through the 
narrow streets around the Forum. Nothing 
roused his interest, no vision penetrated through 
his eyes to his brain. Dead was the city around 
him; dead the memories which rise before us all 
as we pass along its wajrs. He was cut off even 
from the memories of his Roman summer, the 
morning throng, the palaces, the fountains, all 
the known and unknown which had enveloped 
him, by this torrent of new emotions. She alone 
occupied his heart. She was all his world. She 
created and destroyed in an instant visions far 
clearer and more real than those about him: a 
whole past of tears, and Marie free, Marie by whom 
he might have made himself loved, Marie indif- 
ferent whom he must lose with all the rest! 

He did not yield before these assaults. A sort 
of anger animated him, the excitement of the tried 
wrestler who will not be conquered, and who is not 
at his first victory. He had walked so rapidly 



THE BARRIER 199 

that his brow was hot and throbbing as he turned 
into the shaded path between deep walls which 
climbs the deserted slopes of the Aventine. He 
stopped before the door of the Abbey of St. 
Anselm, which is occupied by the college of the 
Benedictine order. The porter recognised him at 
once, and Reginald rejoiced, so in need was he 
of sympathy, and recalled, as he did so, the old 
gardener at home on the night he was e^ed. 

"Is Dom Austin Vivian here?'' 

"No, he is not." 

"Ah, I am sorry to hear that. I wanted so 
much to see him. I will come back a little while 
before the Ave Maria." 

"He is not in Rome," said the friar. "He was 
called away several days ago. Here is a letter he 
left for you." 

The sunset was approaching its most golden 
hour, and before leaving, Reginald wished to gaze 
for the last time at the noble prospect which those 
meditative souls have always spread out before 
them. But he found that it no longer spoke 
peace to his troubled heart. His last look was 
at the door which had so often opened to him, 
the door of carved chestnut — ^most imperishable 
of woods — ^in a setting of white marble, with an 
inscription over it which he read once more: "Pax 
setema ab aeterno." Peace, that wealth which 
no wealth can buy, which he had once possessed 
and was seeking still, but as those who know 
that they shall find it again, that it has with- 
drawn a little way in order to be better loved, but 
not too far to hear the dropping of our tears. 



200 THE BARRIER 

He went away feeling that he was utterly alone 
in life, but that on the morrow there would be 
Marie. The footpaths were deserted, the walls on 
either side re-echoed his hasty steps. He con- 
tinued to ascend to the summit of the hill where 
stood an inn surrounded by a small vineyard, where 
he had hired a room looking down over Rome. 
He entered, but did not approach his window 
as was his wont every evening. He seated him- 
self before the plain deal table and buried his 
face in his hands. Cruel thoughts, tenacious 
thoughts, still assailed him, but at moments he 
felt a sense of succour as he murmured : 

''Come to my help, O God! to the help of one 
who is very poor. All the beings upon whom 
my heart has leaned have, one by one, withdrawn 
from me. I am reduced to my own weakness and 
Thy power. It is best so. My father banished 
me, my friend was absent when I most needed 
counsel, my new friend fails me to-day. They held 
but for a moment the place I thought a lasting 
one. And she whom I shall see to-morrow! How 
will it be between us? Grant to me who am 
timid and silent the courage to speak to Marie. 
Grant that her answer may be according to Thy 
will, Thou Dispenser of the supreme and prom- 
ised peace!" 

He had no sense of the flight of time. When he 
rose and looked around at the dim walls of his 
room, the stars were shining in at the window, and 
far below, in the deep valley, gardens, huts, and ruins 
slumbered and the calm, cold, silent night spread 
over all, allaying the dust and tumult of the day. 



THE BARRIER 201 

On the following afternoon, at three o'clock, 
when Reginald entered the reading-room of the 
Hotel de Londres he found there Mme. Limerel, 
Marie, and an old lady dressed in black, to whom 
he was presented, — a tall, thin lady, comfortably 
ensconced on the sofa, with a light silk scarf over 
her shoulders which she was constantly redraping, 
and who had the direct, serious, and at the same 
time amused expression of those who have trav- 
elled a great deal, and who instinctively weigh 
and compare whatever they see — ^landscapes, 
jewels, accents, men's clothes, and the tones of 
their voices. 

*'You remind me. Monsieur Breynolds," she 
said, '^of an Englishman I met on the Bosphorus, 
who wore precisely the same sort of travelling 
costume, with the blouse and knickerbockers of 
brown — or is it green? It must be very practi- 
cal. Your tailors have never invented anything 
better." 

He bowed, and it was chiefly with this elder- 
ly globe-trotter that he conversed while they 
climbed the Spanish steps and wound around the 
edge of the terraced gardens. Marie followed in 
silence with her mother, knowing that this was but 
a temporary diversion. The attention he lent to 
the most commonplace questions was too elabo- 
rate, he took too much pains to answer fully, while 
at the same time turning aside from anything 
which approached the personal, even avoiding the 
vague expressions in which youth often veils an 
insistent trouble in an unconscious appeal for 
sympathy. 



202 THE BARRIER 

Marie, meanwhile, pursued the dream which 
had absorbed her the previous evening, and all 
that morning. She understood that ^e should 
again have this hidden soul opened to her, and that 
the hour was approaching. At last Mme. Limerel 
asked Reginald: 

"Where are you taking us. Monsieur?'* 

They had walked half-way along the terrace, 
skirting the Pincian hill. He cast a glance about 
him, like one who has come a long distance with- 
out being aware of it, and replied: 

"I do not know. It is all quite the same to 
me." 

"You promised, you know, to show us one of 
your favourite spots." 

He thought for a moment: 

"Have you been to the Piazza di Siena?" 

"No, never." 

"Let us go there, then." 

The little party turned to the right and crossed 
the garden between beds of withered flowers — 
dahlias, roses, pinks, and sage, whose foliage was 
already dead, but which still showed bright bits of 
colour on the top of their elongated stalks. The 
pathway led through a grove of tall cedars draped 
with wild vine drooping languidly in the breath 
of autumn. 

Marie was now talking with Mme. Villier, while 
Reginald walked ahead with Mme. Limerel and 
described to her the long journey he must make 
before reaching Assam. At the end of the garden 
they crossed a bridge over a deep ravine and 
entered the grounds of the Villa Borghese. The 



THE BARRIER 203 

horizon widened, and the characteristic Roman 
beauty showed itself in the bolder contours of the 
landscape, and the soaring lines of the cypresses. 
Reginald led the way through an ilex avenue, and 
soon pointed out on the right hand an oval glade, 
a sort of stadium for races and games, which had 
been hollowed out in the midst of a grove of 
lofty stone pines, and surrounded by tall hedges 
of clipped box, above which a yew tree rose 
here and there. The arena was framed by four 
tiers of moss-grown stone steps, with strips of 
sod between, forming seats for the absent spec- 
tators. 

"There is the Piazza di Siena," he said. "I 
have often spent hours here. See what perfect 
seclusion. How far we seem to be from the noise 
of the streets." 

''It is antique, evidently," saidj the lady 
traveller. 

''Only a century old, Madame, but the Roman 
air soon gives that look of grandeur." 

A few figures could be seen strajdng along the 
distant avenues, looking minute among the trees. 
The twisted boughs of the pines on the embank- 
ment were beginning to turn a rosy hue, but the 
hollow of the circus was in shadow and the re- 
cumbent stones wrapped in their clinging mosses 
were pallid only from the intensity of shade about 
them. 

In order to rest and enjoy this solitude, the 
ladies seated themselves on the upper row of 
seats near the opening, and Reginald remained 
standing on the knoll above them. 



WMW*" 



204 THE BARRIER 

An emotion too strong to be repressed had taken 
possession of him; at last he approached Marie 
where she sat beside her mother and said: 

''Will you come a Uttle way with me? It will 
be our last walk together/' 

She rose at once, and side by side they walked 
away over the carpet of pine needles, into the 
shade of the grove. 

"You allow it?" asked the friend, and Mme. 
Limerel replied: 

''He is an Englishman and he is leaving to- 
morrow." 

The last walk! What a throng of memories, 
the slightest and the most remote, were awakened 
by that cruel word; how they gathered about 
these two, separating them at once from the whole 
world 1 Reginald had already bent over Marie, 
and was speaking to her in low tones. Stirred as 
they were by different but dominating emotions, 
they moved slowly, while every gesture and in- 
flection of their voices was unstudied and spon- 
taneous, the words they exchanged were stripped 
of every vestige of the human comedy, and had 
become the breath of two souls without dis- 
guise. 

For the first time Reginald said: "Mary," and 
on hearing her name pronounced Marie was more 
troubled than before. She understood now that 
she bore no other name in his thoughts. 

"Mary, I thank you for having come. You 
have already played a great part in my life." 

"I did not seek it." 

"No, but it was a beneficent, a blessed part." 



THE BARRIER 205 

"I should like to have it so." 

"You have judged well in all things, Mary. 
Thank you, once more." 

" And yet all your troubles have come through 
me," she said. 

"They might be doubled, for I know their power 
now. They cannot reach the heights of the soul." 

"That is most true." 

"And then, when I see you once more, it seems 
to me that all I have endured is over. You can- 
not believe with what impatience I have waited 
for the time when I could speak to you again." 

"I, too, have longed for a chance to speak freely 
with you," she replied. 

"I thought of you all last evening." 

"And I of you! I admired what you had done." 

"How I wish our thoughts might have been 
the same. You told me of sometWng which has 
cost you tears, regrets, and hopes. Do you re- 
member your last words to me? " 

"I remember." 

"You told me you were no longer engaged. 
For hours and hours I have thought over your 
words, Mary, and I have resolved to speak to you 
as I could not have spoken before." 

"You are wrong, I fear." 

"Do not stop me. Let me speak. I am soon 
to be so far away from you. I have questioned my 
heart, in great perplexity at first, afterwards with 
a sort of calmness and hope. I thought I knew 
myself, but I did not. You have been in my 
heart much longer than I was conscious, and 
doubtless from the first. Thank God I did not 



206 THE BARRIER 

then know what might have turned me aside 
from my great purpose! And yet you were never 
to me like other girls. When you were a stranger, 
a partner at tennis, almost unknown to me, I 
turned to you in the greatest crisis of my life. 
What inspired this wonderful confidence? " 

"You have already told me," she answered. 
"It was partly that you attributed to me a sound- 
ness of judgment which I have not always for 
myself, and still more because you thought that 
we should never meet again." 

"Yes, but we have met. Almost in spite of my- 
self I saw you again; my well-weighed plans were 
broken down, and why? What force drew me 
up your mother's stairs when I had persisted for 
days in staying away? Explain to me my obedi- 
ence to your slightest word; my joy when I am 
beside you; my deep trouble, as at this moment. 
I never understood it until last night when think- 
ing over these months which have changed every- 
thing within me and around me. Mary, I am 
sure that I have always loved you, at least a little, 
but far less than now." 

Marie slackened her steps and gazed at him 
steadily and sadly. 

"Reginald," she said, "do not speak to me of 
a love I cannot share." 

"You cannot share it?" 

"No, my friend." 

She spoke with so deep a pity for the pain she 
was giving that neither of them could add another 
word as they walked on, side by side, with bowed 
heads, their shadows forming but one, which 



- V c u 



THE BARRIER 207 

moved before them down the dope. For they 
had reached the end of the row of pines, and were 
passing beneath the ilexes which bound the ex- 
tremity of the Piazza di Siena. Reginald spoke 
first: 

"I have deceived myself then. You are not the 
woman I thought you." 

His tone had grown harsh. He made no at- 
tempt to curb his anger, which was only grief. 

"You scorn one who has all the world against 
him. Yesterday I might have been a man to in- 
spire some interest. To-day I am a mere younger 
son, a poor subaltern!'' 

''Ah, do not speak like that! You are ungen- 
erous. You are not yourself at this moment ! In 
truth you might have the right to accuse me if I 
had ever tried to make you love me, if I had 
been a thoughtless coquette. But I have nothing 
of the sort to reproach myself with, as you well 
know." 

"Yes, I know it. But why do you repulse me? 
Why do you act like other women whom I have 
not loved? You whom I believed so diflferent! 
Is it because you could not marry an English- 
man? You are fiercely French. Is it that ? " 

"I am tenderly so, which is a different thing. 
If you wish to know my real feeling on the subject, 
I will tell you : I should prefer to marry a French- 
man, but I could love a foreigner. Do not doubt 
it." 

"But he would carry you too far away. You 
are afraid?" 

"Oh, no, not that." 



-' ' 



208 THE BARRIER 

''I cannot offer you a brilliant position now. 
All luxuries, all that nutkes an easy, attractive 
life, I have renounced for the present. But I 
shall at least inherit my father's title. I can ex- 
change and return to England. I could " 

'' Reginald, you misunderstand me wholly. I 
have already answered you," 

*'It is myself then, my character, my disposi- 
tion, or my person, that you cannot love? Ah, I 
had hoped more of this last interview! I am 
indeed alone since you abandon me I'' 

"Neverl Listen to me!" 

Marie spoke in the firm tones of a mother 
reproving a wilful child. The sunshine cast a 
golden gleam over her delicate profile. 

"You will be able to understand me, you who 
have a strong religious sense. You have told me 
your secrets. I owe you mine. I loved F^licien, 
who has been a friend from childhood. He had 
admirable qualities, and talents, and inheritances 
which attached me to him. We seemed destined 
for each other. But I exacted one condition, 
the greatest, the most essential for me — ^that he 
should share my faith, and he was forced to own 
to me with tears that he could not fulfil it." 

"I remember. We passed a night together — 
a night of vigil." 

**So we parted, and I shall never marry him." 

Reginald turned away his face. He hesitated 
for a moment, but generous youth and imperious 
kindness carried the day. 

"Mary, how could he abandon a faith like his — 
and a being like you? He is at the age when men 






THE BARRIER 209 

have such splendid resources of energy and are 
capable of such sudden changes/' 

*'I had hoped for that. I have waited." 

He saw that tears were trembling on her lashes, 
and that she thanked him. In a warmer gleam of 
sunlight they walked on side by side, and entered 
the pine-grove on the further side of the arena. 
They were returning now to their starting-point. 
Far off they could see the two ladies, making a 
patch of blackness on the stones and turf. 

*'Even after that, I tried once more," she said. 
"I wrote to him. I have already learned how 
slight the power of love is. Now, all is over, 
only " 

She stopped and leaned against a pine, with one 
arm raised above her head, and Reginald stood 
before her in order that he might look in her 
face, and as if to prevent her escaping him. 

" — Only I have suffered, Reginald." 

"I saw it. I compared yoriook now with 
what it was formerly." 

"I have changed, have I not?" 

"That which gives added beauty is a change, 
too." 

"I have been so deeply shaken that I feel I r 
have no right now to accept the love of another. 
These memories must be dispelled to allow me 
even to listen. I should feel that I was profaning 
the tenderness offered me, if a shadow within 
me mingled with it." 

*' Sweet 9oul that you are!" 

"I wish to be wholly strong against the past. I 
wish that there should be no regrets, do you un- 



210 THE BARRIER 

derstand? No dust of shattered affections in the 
heart I give to him who shall come/' 

**He has come, Mary." 

She made no answer. 

*Tell me that I may love you- Then I shall no 
longer be alone, and I can go away joyful." 

Her outstretched arm clasped the tree for 
support. 

"Tell me that I may write to you from out 
there, and that you will write to me." 

She made a gesture of assent and Reginald 
cried: 

"Ah, then you will learn to love me. I am 
sure of it!" 

"I do not wish to know. Are we destined for 
each other, Reginald, my friend Reginald? Do 
not let us be carried away by words of weakness. 
Let us control our hearts which have been sorely 
tried, and are striving to find consolation. It is 
for me to fortify and warn you. You are about 
to leave me, keep yourself free to forget me." 

"I do not wish to be free," he pleaded. 

"It is not at this last moment that you can 
speak the first word of love to me — can ask for 
my promise and pledge nie yours. Reginald, we 
have a nobler farewell to speak to eadi other — 
stronger and more worthy of us both." 

Marie, as she spoke, wore again the expression 
she had worn in the woods of Redhall when he had 
asked her counsels. Her sensitive face grew 
stronger and finer with all the energy of her race, 
her noble nature, her purity and power of sus- 
taining others, her pity without weakness, her 



THE BARRIER 211 

spirit of self-sacrifice and of challenge to life, 
her courage in the hour of difficulty. The eyes 
which had been filled with tears were now clear 
and serious, no longer looking into Reginald's to 
understand, to divine, to follow his thought, but to 
command in the name of an authority ever present 
and supreme. As one who through pity forgets 
her own grief, she had conquered all perplexities, 
and saw clearly for herself and for him. 

"Let us not bid each other adieu under the 
illusion of a rash tenderness, but in the certainty 
of a perfect friendship." 

And in his turn he made no reply, 

"Let us part in mutual gratitude, because we 
have helped each other to rise." 

"You have indeed helped me," he said. 
"But I?" 

"You also. What examples of courage you 
have given me I That letter last evening! All 
night I thought of it and reproached myself for 
my weakness. Truly, if I have the strength to 
speak to you as I do, it is to you that I owe it! 
You have led me back into the higher path. I 
thank you. I shall think of you daily. Nothing 
can spoil our memory of each other. We have 
tried to do our duty to each other, and in doing 
it I believe that we have fulfilled our destiny. 
Go freely, Reginald, towards the future ! " 

With an aflfectionate gesture she took his hand. 

"My brother Reginald, I will love you all my 
life." 

He pressed the valiant little hand and said in 
a scarcely audible tone : 



212 THE BARRIER 

"Yes, all our lives. You have a noble soul, 
Mary, far nobler than I knew. You are right, for 
the present at least. But leave me the future. 
I obey you. I go without a murmur. Adieu." 

He was trembling and quite pale. Marie re- 
mained standing where he had left her, while he 
stepped backwards, slowly, still gazing at her 
through the pines. When he was a few paces 
off he spoke again, striving to appear master of 
himself. 

''You look too much like her who shared my 
victory on the day of the tournament — ^Westgate 
— little Mary, adieu." 

The ruddy sunlight again fell on the brown 
hair of the colour of ripe chestnut burrs. Regi- 
nald paused once more and his lips moved, but 
his words no longer reached her across the dis- 
tance that divided them. 

Two days later Reginald landed on the blooming 
quay of Pallanza. The boat was leaving the pier 
to round the rocky cape and terraced gardens 
which form one point of the Borromean Bay 
and divide Lago Maggiore. He sought amidst 
the crowd of tourists and Italian venders on the 
pier the friend whom he was amazed not to find 
awaiting him. The wind which was sweeping 
down from the Alps reached even this sheltered 
landing, and rose again in a whirlwind, car- 
rying the dry leaves before it. 

Reginald, who knew that the Eden Hotel 
was situated on the extreme point of the cape, 
crossed the piazza diagonally, passing the old 



THE BARRIER 213 

houses built on arcades, and had begun climb- 
ing the slope lined with villas, into which the 
carriages from the pier were already turning, 
when, suddenly, at the opening of the road, an 
Englishman appeared, running and breathless, 
waving his arms as he cried: 

* ' How are you, Reginald? I am late, then." 

*'How are you, Hargreave?" 

They gazed at each other intently. Hargreave, 
taller, thinner, and more awkward than ever, 
hesitated to appear his jovial self and restrained 
the broad smile which was habitual with him. 

"You look at me as anxiously as if I were re- 
covering from an illness," said Reginald. "My 
dear fellow, do not worry about me. I am the 
same man as ever, and am on my way back to 
service. I sail thds evening — ^unless my father 
keeps me; in that case I shall go to-morrow. 
How is he?" 

"Wonderfully well. This climate suits him." 

"So much the better. He has not seemed too 
much concerned?" 

Fully restored to himself, Hargreave drew 
Reginald rapidly along, and as they ascended the 
hill, went on with increasing animation : 

"He? His best friends, like myself, fail to 
comprehend the complicated mechanism of his 
mind. I know what he is doing, but I have no 
idea what he is thinking, when he chooses to keep 
it to himself 1 I can only assure you that he is lead- 
ing an active life, and one according to his tastes. 
He has a little white boat rigged as a sloop, in 
which we sail back and forth across the lake. 



214 THE BARRIER 

She is a swift sailer, Reginald, and serves very 
well for fishing. We fish for the char but your 
father is particularly enthusiastic over the trout. 
He considers them a thousand times prettier and 
more delicious than those of Lago di Garda, 
which are brown-scaled, as you know. Here 
they flash in the water like sunbeams, and have 
a very delicate flavour, especially when seasoned 
with old Lesa wine. The mountains here offer 
hundreds of excursions, but your father tires 
more easily than formerly. He has joined the 
skating club which owns an artificial pond 
over yonder, behind the Crocetta estate. In 
short, the place seems very favourable to your 
father's health. But I have no notion as to his 
state of mind concerning you, nor as to what 
sort of a welcome you will receive.'' 

''He got my letter?" 

"Yes, the day before yesterday, while he was 
taking his coffee on the terrace. The chasseur 
brought only one, and I recognised your hand- 
writing. Sir George tore it open and glanced at 
the first line, then thrust it hastily into his vest 
pocket, saying: 'I have received bad news, Har- 
greave. You won't leave me this afternoon, will 
you?' We took a long, a very long walk. He 
seemed sad, and once or twice I thought he was 
about to speak to me of you. But no, nothing! 
And yet he said, 'You won't leave me?'" 

They followed the path, which was bordered 
by tropical plants of every variety, while through 
the branches of the trees they caught glimpses of 
the blue mountains across the lake. 



THE BARRIER 215 

"I will go on ahead and find him/' said Har- 
greave, "and tell him that you are here awaiting 
his answer." 

Reginald laid his hand on his old friend's arm, 
saying: 

"Be sure and add that I submit to his orders 
and only ask for one thing: to see him, even 
without exchanging a word, to see him if only for a 
moment." 

Hargreave's face expressed ssmapathy, mingled 
with regret and reproach, such as one feels for 
wasted heroism. 

"Brave boyl" he said. " I don't understand 
you, but I have a weakness for you, all the 
same." 

"Tell him, also, that my afifection for him is un- 
changed, that my respect has never wavered. 

Hargreave went on alone, repeating to himself 
like a refrain: 

"Redhall! Redhalll The future lord of Red- 
hall awaiting justice from his father!" 

Sir George was sitting in the glazed gallery of 
the hotel reisuling the newspaper, with his back to 
the light. Contrary to his habit, he allowed 
Hargreave to open the door and come in without 
accosting him, without seeming aware of his 
friend's presence. Hargreave approached, rais- 
ing his shoulders and contracting the muscles of 
his long neck, which, with him, was a sign of em- 
barrassment. 

"There is some one outside, my dear fellow, 
who would like to see you, only to see you, even 
without speaking a word." 



J 

216 THE BARRIER 

The hands holding the newspaper trembled so 
violently that Sir George let it drop lest the 
rattling of the sheet should be audible; as he said : 

"Ah, really! I suspected as much." 

"He has come a long way." 

"I did not invite him." 

"He is waiting in the road. If you refuse to 
s6e him, it will cause him great pain." 

"He is younger than I to bear his pain!" 

"And he will take the next boat " 

"He is quite free to do so." 

And with these words the old baronet sprang 
to his feet, red with anger. 

"Does he bring me excuses? No, I am sure 
not. You cannot say that he offers any, and if 
you did I should not believe you; he is my son. 
Then why do you expect me to change? He knew 
what he was doing. So do I ! You can bring him 
in, Hargreave, but I shall not be here. If he 
adis you where I am, yx)u can say that I had a 
rush of blood to the head, and needed to take 
the air." 

And with hasty steps Sir George crossed the 
gallery and entered the adjoining salon, slamming 
the door behind him. 

Hargreave walked out of the hotel, bitterly re- 
gretting that he had consented to be the bearer of 
messages between these two. He followed the 
little path bordered by palms and ferns until he 
caught sight of Reginald, when feeling powerless 
to speak to him, to comfort him, to be a witness 
of his youthful sorrow, he made a despairing ges- 
ture, saying with arms and head and eyes: 



THE BARRIER 217 

"It is useless. I have done your errand badly. 
I have not succeeded. Do not come!" 

On the deck of the steamboat^ half an hour later, 
Reginald Breynolds was seeking for a spot whence 
he could distinguish most clearly, and for the 
longest time, the house where his father had re- 
fused to receive him. He found at last a place in 
the bow, outside the awning which was flapping 
in the breeze. The whole surface of the lake from 
north to south was furrowed by the wind, and 
quivering with life and light; the sun was just 
sinking behind the mountains. The boat sound- 
ed her whistle and put off, rounding first the little 
island of San Giovanni, which lies opposite Pal- 
lanza, and then the cape, upon whose terraces 
the foliage scarcely stirred. Next she headed 
straight to windward a few hundred yards from 
the shore, which here sent out a succession of long 
spurs into the lake as far as the eye could dis- 
tinguish them in the rising mist. Reginald 
strove intently to make out which of the closed 
windows in the great square building on the 
height might hide the figure of Sir George, which 
curtain might be lifted for a moment and then let 
fall agam. 

He was no longer troubled; he had accepted 
the ordeal and did not rebel. The Sempione was 
making good speed; it would soon be difficult to 
distinguish the outlines of a man's figure on the 
hotel balconies. They had already passed the 
chffs of San Remigio, bright with geraniums, the 
shores were growing flatter, the little town and 



218 THE BARRIER 

beach of Intra were just coming in sight when 
Reginald started, and with a rapid gesture raised 
his hat from his head. From the shelter of a 
rock a white skiff glided out and bore down on 
the Sempione^ canying so much sail that she 
careened before the wind. A man held the tiller, 
an old man, sitting very upright. 

All the passengers rose to see how close the 
sloop would cross the track of the steamer. She 
passed so near as to graze the hull. For an instant 
Reginald saw the small blue eyes beneath their 
white lashes fixed upon his; then the sloop, caught 
in a sudden gust, veered away from the steamship, 
which was running straight for Locarno. She did 
not turn again. But invisible, leaning half-way 
across the gunwale, separated already by dis- 
tance, by the light mist and the oncoming dark- 
ness from the big boat, old Sir George still peered 
out to catch her dim outline. Then as night de- 
scended, he saw only one of her side-lights like a 
little star skimming the surface of the water. 









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